Good Evening
Good Evening

Idle Rangers eager to play again after long layoff

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at training camp.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at training camp. Credit: Richard Harbus

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The long week finally is over, and the Rangers will get to play again. And Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t be happier.

“I think everybody’s excited to get back playing,’’ Lundqvist said after the Rangers wrapped up Friday’s practice in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s game against the red-hot Edmonton Oilers at the Garden.

“Personally, I love when you just play every second day; you’re in rhythm,’’ he said. “Now you just have to work a little harder to find that focus when you go out [Saturday] . . . I think we’ve been doing everything we can to stay sharp.

“And look, enough practice now. We just want to play.’’

Lundqvist, who will start his second game of the season, hopes to stay as sharp as he was in his first game, when he stopped 43 of 47 shots in the Rangers’ 6-4 victory over Winnipeg on opening night. That was Oct. 3.

The 37-year-old goaltender doesn’t remember getting such a long break between games.

“Obviously, we’re going to pay for it later, you know, with a very tight schedule,’’ he said.

Lundqvist said he was “a little annoyed’’ when he first saw the schedule, but he’s long since moved on and has been able to find the positives of having so much extended practice time. The team has been able to work on tightening up a few details, he said.

“In the end, [Saturday] is what matters, but I think, long term, it’s been a good week [off], because the coaches had an opportunity to go through a lot of different things,’’ he said.

Coach David Quinn, who said Thursday that he was sick of answering the same questions day after day, wasn’t interested in griping about the schedule.

“I’m sure the league, if they could have, would have done something different,’’ he said. “But sometimes things are out of your control. What are you gonna do? There’s nothing you can do .  .  . We’ve just got to be excited about playing a hockey game tomorrow.’’

The Rangers will have to contend with an Oilers team (4-0) that  is one of five remaining unbeaten teams. The Hurricanes (5-0), the Avalanche (3-0), the Rangers (2-0) and the Flyers (2-0) are the others.

“They’re coming in hot,’’ Lundqvist said. “Their top guys are playing really well.’’

No one is hotter for the Oilers than James Neal, who, entering Friday, led the NHL in goals with seven. The 6-3, 212-pound forward, who was acquired from Calgary in a summer trade that sent Milan Lucic to the Flames, had four goals in Edmonton’s 5-2 win over the Islanders on Tuesday and added another in a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils on Thursday.

And, of course, there are the really big guns, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl scored in regulation against the Devils and scored the only goal in the shootout. McDavid, whose 10 points were tied for the league lead, forced the game into overtime by scoring the six-on-four goal that tied it at 3 with 1:06 left in regulation.

“The power play’s on fire [40 percent through four games],’’ Quinn said of Edmonton. “They’re a dangerous team. I know they haven’t had the success over the last few years, but they’ve always been dangerous.’’

New York Sports