RALEIGH, N.C. — In the 10 games the Rangers have played since the NHL All-Star break, Henrik Lundqvist has started five and backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev has started five, including the last two and three of the past four.
The reason for that? Georgiev has played very well, including making 55 saves — a record for a Rangers goalie in a game decided in regulation -- in a 4-1 win over Toronto on Feb. 10. But the truth of the matter is that Lundqvist, by his own admission, hasn’t been great since the break. He’s 1-3-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and an .894 save percentage in that span.
In his most recent appearance, last Tuesday in Winnipeg, the Rangers lost to the Jets, 4-3, with Lundqvist making some great saves but giving up some goals that he probably shouldn’t have.
So Lundqvist has been doing what he always does when he's struggling — practicing harder. On Monday, he and seven teammates skated at PNC Arena, where the Rangers will face the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in the finale of their four-game road trip. Lundqvist is expected to start.
“I feel pretty good,’’ he said after the hour-long workout. “I think my game is close. But being close and playing OK is not going to help your team win a lot of games. I need to take one more step. A lot of times, that means one more save and you’ll have a different outcome and a different feel in the room. I think it’s been right there for me the last few starts, but I just haven’t got it done.’’
The Rangers have 24 more games, and last week, coach David Quinn said Georgiev (9-10-0 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .904 save percentage) will get more playing time. Quinn said the Rangers want to get a look at Georgiev and want to develop him. He also said increased playing time for Georgiev will be good for Lundqvist, as it should spur him to lift his own game.
Lundqvist, who will turn 37 on March 2, hasn’t often had to share games 50-50 with his goalie partner in his 14-year career, but he understands why it’s happening now.
“Well, absolutely,’’ he said. “You’ve got to earn your ice time. It doesn’t matter who you are. I think [Georgiev's] been good all year, and he’s taken another step here the last couple months. He’s so skilled. Quick feet, battles really hard. So it’s not a surprise to me that he’s doing really well here, especially the last few weeks.’’
Notes & quotes: The Rangers made a minor-league trade Monday night, sending the leading scorer on their AHL Hartford affiliate, Peter Holland, to Chicago for defenseman Darren Raddysh. Holland, 28, had 20 goals and 49 points in 52 games for the Wolf Pack. Raddysh, who will turn 23 on Feb. 28, had eight goals and 18 assists and was a plus-6 in 54 games for Rockford of the AHL. He is 6-1, 200 pounds . . . Defenseman Brady Skjei, who left Friday’s win over Buffalo with a knee injury and didn’t play Sunday against Pittsburgh, practiced and said he feels good. Whether he’s healthy enough to play against Carolina will be decided by the training staff, he said . . . The Rangers plan to have an optional morning skate Tuesday.