BOSTON - With nine regular-season games left, Cam Talbot is ready to pass the baton back to a healthy Henrik Lundqvist as the Rangers turn their focus to clinching the Metropolitan Division title.
Lundqvist, who backed up Talbot in Ottawa on Thursday night and skated Friday with Martin St. Louis (MCL sprain), said he is ready to play.
Sidelined since Feb. 2 with a blood vessel injury in his neck, Lundqvist is likely to start Saturday's matinee at TD Garden, but coach Alain Vigneault could start him Sunday at home against the Capitals.
After the Rangers clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory over the Senators Thursday night, Talbot said, "I think I proved I can carry the load as a starting goalie, that I can play well for long stretches instead of spot starts every couple of weeks."
Few would argue. In Lundqvist's absence, Talbot was 16-4-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and two shutouts. "It's a big confidence boost for me," he said. "It's a great run, but Hank's ready to go. It's his net. I'm just happy for the opportunity I got for the past seven or eight weeks."
Said Lundqvist, "I'm more impressed than surprised. He's been working hard since Day 1. He's a confident guy and a lot of times, it starts with confidence. There's a lot of goalies who can work hard and have good technique, but a lot of times, it's the mind-set and the confidence that decides if you're going to be successful or not. I think he believes in his game, and having Benny [Benoit Allaire] as his coach helps him pay attention to the details.''
Notes & quotes: Rick Nash remains stuck on 39 goals. He has gone a season-high eight games without one and has only two goals in his last 15 games, one an empty-netter.