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Rangers' Sunday matinee with Ducks is Henrik Lundqvist's chance to earn more starts

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers and his teammates react after the Vegas Golden Knights scored their first goal of the second period at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — For Henrik Lundqvist, getting the start Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks in the Rangers’ last home game before Christmas represents an opportunity.

For one reason or another, with a minor back issue having been a factor for a while, Lundqvist has had to sit and watch while Alexandar Georgiev started seven of the last 10 games. But with Georgiev looking a little shaky in his last start after looking just OK in the start before that, Lundqvist now has a chance to reclaim some of the ice time that seemed to be slipping away from him. If he plays well Sunday, it’s possible he could play again Monday night in Philadelphia. And then, who knows?

It’s not a familiar situation for Lundqvist, 37, who has been the face of the franchise for the last 15 years. For most of his time in New York, he’s been the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender, who played when he felt good and felt in rhythm. He took nights off sporadically.

But this season, he has split time with Georgiev — playing 19 games to Georgiev’s 17 — and has less control over when he plays and when he doesn’t. That’s different for him.

“It’s more mental,’’ Lundqvist said of dealing with the new order of things. “Technically and physically, you’re working every day. It’s your mind [that needs to adjust]. You’re off and on, off and on. You learn how to approach it. We talked about this; there’s going to be stretches where you play less, and the last couple weeks for a different reason — I had the back issue and Georgie playing well — all you can do is just focus on your own game, your own performance and be ready when they tell you to play. And I look forward to play.’’

There was a two-week stretch, beginning with a 4-0 win over the Devils on Nov. 30 through the 4-3 shootout loss to the Ducks last Saturday, in which Georgiev went 4-1 with two shutouts and seven goals allowed on 169 shots (.959 save percentage). Lundqvist, in that span, went 0-2-1 with nine goals allowed on 99 shots (.909).

“Bottom line . . . it’s about the team winning,’’ Lundqvist said. “What’s best for the team. It doesn’t matter what every individual player wants . . . It’s about winning games, as a group. And you’ve got to buy into that.

“Of course you want to play,’’ he said. “But the way things have been going — Georgie playing well, we had a good run there — it made sense to keep playing him. Whenever you get a chance to play, of course, you want . . . to try to help the team win. And hopefully I can do that Sunday].’’

Coach David Quinn was asked how Lundqvist is adapting to his new normal. “I see someone who is adapting to change, like all of us do,’’ he said. “The thing I love about him is every time we talk about the situation, he fully embraces it; he understands it. He gets it.

“As I’ve always said, there are going to be situations over the course of the season where this might happen. But let’s let the season play out. He’s going to play a lot of hockey for us.’’

Notes & quotes: Lias Andersson, who was sent to AHL Hartford last month, has left the organization and requested a trade, the Rangers confirmed. The news was reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger. Andersson, 21, the Rangers’ 2017 first-round pick, had four goals and one assist in 13 games for Hartford but was scoreless in his last six games . . . Kaapo Kakko, who was hit by a shot in the lower right leg Friday against Toronto, did not practice and is listed as day-to-day, Quinn said.   

  

  

  

  

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