Henrik Lundqvist doesn't expect to be on top of his game right away

Henrik Lundqvist makes a save during practice at Henrik Lundqvist makes a save during practice at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh. (Jan. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For an ultracompetitive guy, Henrik Lundqvist is pretty tempered in his expectations for the start of the season.

Forget that after practicing with one shooter in Sweden, he was midseason sharp -- he made 56 saves in the All-Star charity game for superstorm Sandy relief in Atlantic City on Nov. 24. The Rangers' MVP and Vezina Trophy winner last season is realistic when it comes to readiness for opening night on Jan. 19 and a bit beyond.

With just a six-day training camp and no preseason games before a 48-game season, Lundqvist was straightforward Tuesday after practicing with 16 teammates.

"To reach your top limit, I think you need a couple [preseason] games," he said. "You can't expect yourself to go out and play your absolute best if you haven't played for eight months. You get a week or something, but no games, so it's definitely going to be a challenge.

"I'm not going to lie, I don't feel great out there . . . I'm going to put pressure on myself to get back as soon as possible, but at the same time, you need to have a little patience, too. I don't think my game's going to be perfect right away."

Lundqvist, 30, who prefers to play as much as possible, laughed when asked if his NHL record seven-season streak of winning 30 or more games was in jeopardy. "Why?" then added: "It's not impossible, but not likely."

For one thing, Lundqvist hasn't spoken yet with goalie coach Benoit Allaire or coach John Tortorella about their plan of how many games backup Martin Biron will play.

"It's going to be a lot of games coming up fast," Lundqvist said.

Although he believes players who spent months in European or Russian leagues will have a slight advantage in the beginning, Lundqvist didn't hook on with his former Swedish club, the Frolunda Indians. "It would have been a cool experience to join my brother [Joel, his twin who plays forward]," he said. "But I always thought about what would be the best preparation to be ready here."

Lundqvist returned from a visit there last week when, he said, "I had a hard time believing [a season] was not going to happen. We were too close to not play and the consequences of not playing would have been really bad for the game, the fans and everybody involved."

That turned out to be reality, too.

Notes & quotes: Management met with representatives for defenseman Wade Redden, 35, who spent the last two seasons with the AHL's Connecticut Whale, to determine a course of action. If he is waived again before opening night and unclaimed, Redden's cap hit of $5.6 million would be included in the cap. In the new CBA, contracts over $900,000 can no longer be "buried" in the minors, and a buyout couldn't occur until June.

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