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Henrik Lundqvist trying to get used to Rangers' goalie schedule

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist put on his mask

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist put on his mask against the Boston Bruins in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 19, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

NASHVILLE -- If he sees a sub-par game or a stellar effort from rookie goaltender Cam Talbot on Saturday night against the Predators, it won't shake Alain Vigneault's blueprint for the coming two weeks.

There's a goalie schedule for the Rangers, something that Henrik Lundqvist isn't accustomed to, but is living with.

"I just focus on the game I'm playing in, after that, I hope I play the next game but I'm not sure," said Lundqvist, who was told a day after his 41-save win in Dallas that he would rest here.

"We went into the season talking about 60-65 games and that means I play three and sometimes four and then sit out," said Lundqvist. "I know the mind-set going into this. My first few years, I loved to play over 70 games but I also realized the last few years, playing a little less, I can push myself more in practice and it helps my game. At the same time, Cam has been playing so well he deserves to play as well, too."

Talbot, 26, who was 4-1 with a sparkling 1.58 goals-against-average and a .943 save percentage, is penciled in to play at least once more before next Sunday.

"We've got nine [games] in 15 nights, two back to backs, so I figure six and three was a good ratio," Vigneault said. Talbot beat Montreal, 2-0, at the start of the stretch. "He's playing well and it's turn to play [Saturday night]. Hank's been playing extremely well for quite some time so when we looked at the schedule . . . two back to backs, we had identified this one for Cam and I wasn't changing my mind."

The next back-to-back begins at Boston for a matinee the day after Thanksgiving, followed by the first visit to MSG by former Rangers coach John Tortorella and the Vancouver Canucks, also a matinee game.

"We know we're going to get great goaltending no matter who's back there," said Brian Boyle.

Talbot's task was to fend off the Predators, who were 5-2-1 at Bridgestone Arena. "We played 10 games on the road like the Rangers did at the start of the season," said Predators coach Barry Trotz, whose team had won three straight. "So it's a little bit like a trap game, we had Friday off and sometimes you shut your motor down."

Lundqvist, who is expected to start against the Lightning in Tampa on Monday in the third game of the five-game trip, is impressed with Talbot's growth and poise.

"I like his speed," said the former Vezina Trophy winner. "He's quick on his feet; I think looking at him now compared to a few years ago, I think his foot speed has improved. In the [NHL] game today, I think that's key, and the confidence. He's not 19 or 20, he's been playing for a few years."

Lundqvist, who did not know during the Stars game that he would not be in net Saturday, found out during Friday's practice. "It's all part of the plan," he said. "At that moment you think, 'Let's enjoy the [next] game,' but also focus on the next practice. In the past, maybe I got more disappointed, now I realize that it's better for me."

New York Sports