DETROIT - The visitors' locker room at Joe Louis Arena was virtually deserted shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday when Henrik Lundqvist, rehabbing from an undisclosed injury, finally arrived after his post-practice, on-ice workout. He unbuckled his pads, closed his eyes and seemed to meditate for a minute, and then opened them as writers moved in to check his status.
Lundqvist missed his second straight game Saturday night, a rare event for the 31-year-old goaltender, who has been bothered by an ailment believed to involve his left leg or foot. But he already was targeting Monday night's home opener against the Canadiens for his return.
"It's tough to be patient, but I'm not going to hide it, I definitely want to play Monday," said Lundqvist, who suffered the injury in a 3-1 win in Los Angeles in the second game of the season. "I want to be there and play in front of our fans, so that's my goal. But at the same time, you have to be smart about it. It's a long season. We'll see how I react to this."
At least there didn't appear to be any setback after a long morning session with all his teammates. "More speed and regular shots," he said. "That was different compared to the last two days, where it's been more technical stuff in close."
So the healing process is "moving slowly in the right direction . . . Every day it's improving. You just hope it's improving faster,'' he said. "Today was the first real practice I had in a week, so we'll see how I respond."
Lundqvist repeated his assertion that if this were late-season crunch time, he would dress and give it his best shot, even if he weren't 100 percent. "It's easier to do when you get down the stretch,'' he said. "It would definitely be a different story if it's March or April."
But watching from up near the press box again rather than being on the ice is painful in a different way.
"I think we all feel frustration right now and not being able to be out there and help out adds to it, but you have to stay positive," said Lundqvist, who has a 3.45 GAA and .890 save percentage in seven appearances. "This will be a test for us here, the tough start. It's been a long road trip for us; to come back home and play in the Garden will maybe bring some life to the group."