WINNIPEG, Manitoba - As has been the case for much of his NHL career, the Rangers are turning to Henrik Lundqvist to help put the brakes on a skid.
The Blueshirts, who clinched a playoff spot last week, have lost two straight games in regulation to the Bruins and Capitals and three of four, and when they lace up the skates at MTS Center on Tuesday night, they will face another club hungry for a postseason berth.
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Lundqvist, who missed 25 games with a vascular injury in his neck and returned in Saturday's 4-2 loss in Boston, has been the team's MVP for the past few seasons. He will start against the Jets and possibly five of the final six games.
The 33-year-old needs to play to shake off the dust from the longest layoff of his career and prepare for the first round of the playoffs next month against a to-be-determined opponent.
After an understandably rusty first half against the Bruins, who scored four times in 25:53, Lundqvist said he felt more like himself in the crease and predicted an improvement in his next outings.
"If you take away that first period [when the Bruins scored three times], I felt pretty solid," he said Saturday. "I got more and more comfortable, and that's something I feel confident about: That next game is going to feel even better."
Tuesday night's test, the first of two games on the road this week, won't be easy. The Rangers' once-stout defensive structure has been wavering, surrendering 14 goals in the last four games and twice as many quality chances. The Jets, with 90 points (39-25-12), are trying to fend off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for a wild-card berth.
Lundqvist made 25 saves when the Jets edged the Rangers, 1-0, in a shootout Nov. 1 in New York, a game in which Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder) and Kevin Klein (bruised foot) were injured and Dan Boyle was out with a broken hand.
Notes & quotes: With defenseman Matt Hunwick recovered enough from the upper-body injury that forced him to miss Sunday's game, Chris Summers was returned to Hartford. Summers, obtained from Arizona in the March 1 trade for Keith Yandle, played 15 minutes, with three hits, two shots and a gaffe on the fourth Capitals goal . . . The Rangers are in the mix to sign Boston University goalie Matt O'Connor, a 6-5 junior who is a Toronto native . . . The Rangers have won four of their last five road games and are 24-11-2 away from MSG.