The troubling run of medical problems for the 2-5 Rangers continues -- and this time the victim is Henrik Lundqvist.
Already missing three top forwards for tomorrow night's game in Philadelphia, coach Alain Vigneault could not guarantee on Tuesday that his No. 1 goalie would recover well enough from an undisclosed "minor issue" to face the Flyers.
"He's just got a nagging little something that we're trying to get rid of. It hasn't been long and was just brought to my attention the last couple of days," Vigneault said of Lundqvist, who missed practice for the second straight day. "He's day-to-day, I can't say 100 percent sure that he'll be good to go on Thursday. But I can't say 100 percent sure that he's not. He's getting better; he's got something that he's been dealing with for a little bit of time and since we have four days in between games, we figured that it was the right time to try and nip this in the bud."
Before the team came out for practice at 11 a.m., Lundqvist was briefly on the ice in shorts, a T-shirt, socks and skates in front of the bench while the Zamboni cleaned the surface. He moved side to side, apparently testing something. He was not made available to the media and a team spokesman called it a "minor issue."
Clearly, Vigneault is hoping it doesn't turn into something major. "We've got eight games coming up here in 15 days or so . . . and we're trying to get him to be as healthy as any player can be," he said. "You're never at 100 percent during the season, but hopefully he'll be as close to it as he can be."
Should Lundqvist, a workhorse who played in 43 of 48 games in last year's lockout-shortened regular season and 68 or more in five of the past six full seasons, be unable to start, rookie Cam Talbot would make his NHL debut.
The Rangers already have been handcuffed by injuries to Rick Nash (concussion), Ryan Callahan (broken thumb) and Carl Hagelin (on long-term injured reserve until next Tuesday, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery).
Lundqvist, who has started six of the seven games and won two, has not seemed himself, and after Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Devils in New Jersey, during which he allowed all the goals on the first 12 shots, said he was having some trouble with "focus." Asked if the not-for-public problem had affected his early-season play, Vigneault said no, and noted that Lundqvist had a shutout in Washington last week.
Talbot, named the team's backup when veteran Martin Biron was waived Oct. 14, "had a very strong training camp," said Vigneault, who also watched him against the AHL's Manchester Monarchs on Friday, a game that Hartford came back to win, 4-3, in a shootout.
"He played extremely well," Vigneault said. "In the third period and overtime, he was the difference. We're going to need him to play, whether it's Thursday or after that."