SAN JOSE — Seeking the proper balance between riding the hot hand and distributing playing time to keep both his team’s goalies sharp, Rangers coach David Quinn said Friday that he will start Henrik Lundqvist Saturday afternoon in Anaheim against the Ducks, in the final game of the Blueshirts’ four-game western trip, rather than stay with the hot Alexandar Georgiev.
“If a guy gets really hot like ‘Georgie’ was, he played four in a row,’’ Quinn said. “But you look across the league, everybody plays two goalies now for the most part. And when you have two good goalies like we have you will give a guy an opportunity to ride a little bit of a hot streak. But it's also that balancing act of giving the other guy an opportunity and not have him sit too long.’’
A minor back issue — coinciding with a recent hot streak by Georgiev — has limited Lundqvist to just one start in the past 11 days. Over that period, Georgiev has started four games, winning three of them, including the 5-0 win over Vegas on Sunday and the 6-3 win over San Jose on Thursday. Beginning with a wild, 6-5 comeback win in Montreal against the Canadiens on Nov. 23 — when the Rangers rallied from 4-0 down to stun the Canadiens — Georgiev has gone 5-1, with a 2.00 goals against average and a .943 save percentage and two shutouts, including the 38-save effort against Vegas.
Lundqvist has been less than stellar. In his last three starts, he’s 0-2-1, with a 2.97 goals against average and a save percentage of .893.
But Quinn insisted that Lundqvist is playing well, despite what the numbers may suggest.
“I think he's had a good year,’’ Quinn said. “And I think this two-week stretch has been a little circumstantial with him. The tweaking of his of his back and not being able to play the two games he was going to play, and then, him getting in the LA game and us not having a great night. I mean, this isn't a guy who hasn't played well this year and Georgie's been winning, but we've got two really good goalies.’’
With the Rangers having not won two games in a row since beating Minnesota and Carolina at the Garden Nov. 25 and 27, Lundqvist said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to be in net as the Rangers try to record their first win streak since before Thanksgiving.
“No. I think everybody, and especially for a goalie, you gotta just control what you can control,’’ he said. “I can't control how many goals we score, whether we score one goal, two goals, five goals. And that can't determine how you play, or how you feel. You’ve got to just worry about yourself. And when you do that, that will lead to good things to help the team. I think you feel that pressure (to win) every time you step on the ice.’’
Notes & Quotes: Brendan Lemieux, who missed Thursday’s game with an upper body injury, skated and Quinn said he expects the winger to play Saturday. D Marc Staal who blocked a shot with his surgically repaired right ankle and did not practice, will be a game-time decision. If Staal can’t play, Brendan Smith would play defense full time for the first time this season… D Tony DeAngelo and Fs Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome got the day off for “maintenance.’’ . . . … The Rangers announced that Vitali Kravtsov is returning from Russia and has been assigned to AHL Hartford. Kravtsov left Hartford after five games and returned to Russia, but when he was demoted to the Russian minor leagues by his KHL club, the Rangers wanted him return to North America.