GREENBURGH, N.Y. — For the Rangers, there are two targets for Saturday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche: Completing a sweep of the four-game homestand and helping goaltender Henrik Lundqvist nail down his 400th career win.
Only one active goalie ranks above him — Roberto Luongo, who is fifth with 450 wins. Lundqvist is 12th. By season’s end, he likely will be in eighth, passing Chris Osgood (401), Grant Fuhr (403) and Glenn Hall (407). With 27 games left after Saturday night, Tony Esposito (423) isn’t within reach this season.
“Everything he’s earned, he’s deserved,” captain Ryan McDonagh said. “I’m sure it’s going to be on everybody’s mind. We’re going to want to put together a good effort for him; we know he’s going to do his part, so if we play well in front of him, it’s going to give us a good chance.”
Lundqvist, who will turn 35 next month, said “it tells me I’ve been here for a while, had good luck and played with a lot of good players. Every time you reach a milestone, you think about who helped you along the way, the players who’ve come and gone here.”
He praised his mentor, easygoing goalie coach Benoit Allaire, who has supported him since he arrived as a rookie in 2005.
“I try not to reflect too much,” Lundqvist said. “I’m still in the middle of things and want to keep going. You just take a quick second to look at the names and realize you’ve done something special. What I really feel like is I’ve been given that opportunity. You try to work hard, try to have the right attitude, but in the end, it’s being given that opportunity.”
“It’s going to be huge,” backup Antti Raanta said. “But nobody wants to talk about it before so we don’t jinx it.”
Besides Lundqvist’s skill and work ethic, Raanta said, what’s impressive “is how tough he is on himself sometimes. When you have a bad game, or if it’s not even your fault, like if the team loses 2-1, he can be so hard. Sometimes you want to go and hug him, say everything’s OK. But that’s how he is. Then he comes in the next day, he works, works and works, and the next game he’s going to be making sure the 2-1 loss is going to turn into a 2-1 win. It’s remarkable.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said few stars have the persona, talent and “love to handle pressure. You want to be the guy that’s on the ice that’s making the difference. Hank’s definitely one guy. He has a special relationship with the fans. I’m sure it would mean a lot to him to be able to do it here at home.’’