GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist played nearly all season with a bothersome left knee, the Rangers goaltender revealed Tuesday on breakup day at the team’s practice facility. It is the same knee he injured last summer at the World Championships playing for Sweden.
“Physically, I’ve been dealing with a knee injury, pretty much all year,’’ Lundqvist said. “It’s been under control, but it’s definitely something I need to address now. I’ll meet with the doctors here, then (in the) next couple days, (have an) MRI, and make sure I do all the right things to be 100 percent when I start my training, preparation for next season.’’
Lundqvist, who finished 26-26-7, with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage this season, suffered a Grade 1 sprain of the MCL of the knee in last year’s Worlds, but played through the pain and helped Sweden win the gold medal. He was fully healthy when the 2017-18 season began, he said, but he injured the knee early on and managed it from then on.
“I started the season and it was fine, I felt really good, and then I got bumped into early on — late October or November,’’ he said. “After that, it’s been there. It was something I had to deal with, but it’s not affecting my play.
“But it’s something that, when every day you have to look after it, it’s not ideal.’’
With the Rangers not making the playoffs, Lundqvist did not rule out playing in next month’s World Championships, which will be in Denmark May 4-20. But it seems unlikely. He must meet with the Rangers doctors to see what they say, and he added he is mentally drained after the Rangers’ season.
Lundqvist called it “disappointing’’ that the team decided to fire coach Alain Vigneault, although he said that was a function of the way the season went, with a 34-39-9 record.
Of Vigneault’s firing, he said “You understand we didn’t get the job done. When that happens, changes are going to happen.’’
Standing in the locker room surrounded by reporters, Lundqvist seemed quite relaxed, a different man than the one who was so disconsolate after so many tough losses during the season. He is looking to the future with excitement, he said. With the Rangers having three first-round picks (including a 6 percent chance to earn the No. 1 pick overall), the 36-year-old has gone on record saying next season has to be about winning and not about development.
“I think the focus the last couple months here, a lot of, ‘Let’s improve, and get better, and maybe be realistic, too — what kind of team did we have, with all the young guys coming up?’’’ he said. “I think it was important for all of us here to understand when we come back, no matter who’s here, we need to set our goals. And we won’t do that until we’re back, because we don’t know who’s going to be here. But we also know to have the most fun in the regular season, and beyond that, you need to win games. That’s where it starts.’’
“We all know there’s going to be some changes over the summer,’’ he said. “Part of me is a little excited about what’s ahead. I hope we take some good steps in the right direction.’’
Henrik Lundqvist’s goals-against average has gone up in each of the past four seasons: