GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist stayed off the ice for two whole days after that scary, head-over-heels fall he took late in the third period of the Rangers’ 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night. That was enough, as far as the 36-year-old goalie was concerned.
Lundqvist practiced with the team Friday, moving around and taking shots. He won’t play, or even dress, on Saturday, when the Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden, but with just eight games left and the Rangers not heading toward the playoffs, Lundqvist said he never considered shutting himself down for the season.
“No,’’ he said. “No, no, no, no, no, no. You want to be here. You want to battle. You want to play games, compete. We’re obviously not in the situation we want to be in, but you’ve got to see every game as an opportunity to compete, and try to get a win.’’
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who has gone on record saying he wants to see more of 22-year-old Alexandar Georgiev this season, laughed when asked if he considered sitting Lundqvist out for the final eight games.
“You go tell that to Hank!’’ Vigneault said with a big belly laugh. “I’m not doing that! Not a chance! I’m not doing that.
“As soon as he’s ready to play — it might be a couple more days, it might be longer, I don’t know — but he’s going to get some games,’’ Vigneault said. “He wants to play. We want to see Alex, so there’s that fine balancing act there, and that’s what we’re going to do.’’
Lundqvist escaped serious injury when he sprinted out to shoot a loose puck away from charging Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert, who was racing with Rangers defenseman John Gilmour to get to the puck. Calvert crashed into Lundqvist’s legs, sending the goalie up and over into a somersault. Lundqvist’s mask came off after the collision, and on the replay, Lundqvist appeared to tuck his chin into his chest. He landed on his back, but his head did not hit the ice.
He stayed in the game, but said he had soreness in his back, his neck muscles and his ankle on Wednesday and Thursday. Georgiev played Thursday, when the Rangers lost to Philadelphia, 4-3, and Ondrej Pavelec, recovered from a knee injury, backed him up. Georgiev will play again Saturday against the Sabres and Pavelec will again back up, while Lundqvist said he will skate a little harder than he did Friday, when he admitted he was still a little sore.
He said he will definitely play again this season, but he said he won’t rush back.
“Well, if it was the playoffs, yeah, I think it’s harder to be patient, but I think, in a situation like this, yeah, you definitely have to be smart about it,” said Lundqvist. “When your neck and head and back — it’s all connected, so I want to make sure it feels the way it should feel when you’re playing. Georgi’s’ playing well, and he’s getting some big games, here, so we’ll see. We’ll take it day by day.’’
Notes & quotes: Vigneault said Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, the Rangers’ two first-round picks last summer, will play Saturday with AHL Hartford and a decision on when to call them up will be made after that. The Rangers’ next game will be Monday against Washington.