GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Antti Raanta stood guard in front of the net at one end of the Rangers’ practice rink Saturday inside the MSG Training Center, and Magnus Hellberg stood guard in front of the other net. Henrik Lundqvist stood conspicuous by his absence.
The King said he hurt his hip Tuesday. Coach Alain Vigneault said his No. 1 goalie has a muscle strain. The team said Lundqvist will be out two to three weeks. So he’s expected back before the playoffs.
The weight will now fall mainly on Raanta’s pads to keep pucks out. Hellberg was recalled from Hartford Saturday to back him up after Brandon Halverson served in that role at Carolina Thursday when Lundqvist was deemed day-to-day. There are just 14 games left, and the Rangers currently hold a large lead for the East’s top wild card.
“I don’t try to be Hank,” Raanta said. “I just try to be myself . . . I know that every time when I play, it’s always been a big thing for me to show what I can do.”
Lundqvist showed what he can do with 43 saves at Florida Tuesday in a 5-2 victory, his 404th, making him 10th on the all-time list. But he got injured in the first period.
“There was a save there where my body was going one way, the leg the other way, and it impacted my hip,” Lundqvist said. “ . . . I think right now I’m just focusing on the first week, 10 days. We have a good plan here of what I need to do, and from there you just take it step by step and see how it feels. We expect it to be two to three weeks, but we just have to see how I react to treatments and the exercise I’m going to do moving forward.”
The Rangers have eight games over these next 15 days — four back-to-back sets, starting Sunday night at Detroit and Monday night at the Garden against Tampa Bay. But there are either two or three days off before all the back-to-backs. Then there are two more games before the end of the month.
Vigneault said Raanta will start against the Red Wings.
“Antti has wanted the opportunity to play for more than the amount of games he’s played,” Vigneault said. “Our games, other than the back-to-backs, are pretty spread out. So we’ll take it a game at a time, see how he feels and go from there.”
Raanta’s 13-4 with a 2.14 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and three shutouts in his 19 starts.
“He’s a very calm presence in the net there . . . ” captain Ryan McDonagh said.
Raanta is 27 and hasn’t given up on his No. 1 dream.
“When you have somebody like Hank in front of you, it’s not that easy to take the No. 1 spot,” Raanta said. “But I try to work every day so I can be someday the No. 1 guy.”
Hellberg is a 25-year-old guy, a 6-6 Swede with only three games of NHL experience and no starts playing for Nashville and the Rangers.
“This is the last year of my contract,” Hellberg said. “I know that I have to show my best hockey to get a new contract . . . I like to have pressure on me.”