For Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers-Islanders doesn’t change because of venue
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist will have to adjust to the lighting, the background, and the way pucks bounce off the boards at Barclays Center on Wednesday. But for the Rangers’ veteran goalie, one thing won’t change in the Islanders’ new home: His expectations for the opponent.
“They always come to play,” he said on Tuesday.
Lundqvist had faced the Islanders 24 times at Nassau Coliseum, with a 15-8-1 record, a 2.11 GAA, .931 save percentage and two shutouts. His final start there was a 4-1 loss last Jan. 27, before he was injured.
“I look at them the same way,” said Lundqvist. “The feeling you have going up against them — I feel the same. It’s a game you want to win for sure. The last couple of years they’ve grown so much as a team, it’s always a big challenge for us. They’re really skilled, they move the puck really well. I expect a fast game, an intense game. I think there’s going to be a great atmosphere. There’s a new building, it’ll be interesting to see how it feels, how it looks.”
The Rangers’ look certainly will be different. Center Derek Stepan is out with two broken ribs, and coach Alain Vigneault said defenseman Kevin Klein will miss two to three weeks with a strained oblique muscle. Klein, who had appeared in every game, left in the first period of Monday’s home win against Carolina.
Rugged rookie Dylan McIlrath, 23, will dress Wednesday and is expected to play Thursday against the Avalanche and Sunday against the Senators. “This is going to give him an opportunity to show that he is NHL ready,” said Vigneault.
Before next week’s three-game Western Canada trip, an extra defenseman and forward will be added, he said.
McIlrath and five other players — Oscar Lindberg, Jarret Stoll, Viktor Stalberg, Emerson Etem and Antti Raanta — are new to the crosstown rivalry. Vigneault has gotten a taste. “I’ve been here three years and been through some fun, interesting games with the Islanders — are they still called the Islanders? We’ve had some emotional, physical, high-paced games, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”