The New York Rangers were already a bit of an underdog before the puck was even dropped on Game 1 of the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Then, things got worse.
Henrik Lundqvist, somehow, took a stick to the eye late in the first period of what would eventually be a 5-2 Rangers loss and was forced to leave the game early. That’s right, Lundqvist was hit in the eye by a hockey stick – Marc Staal’s stick to be precise – right through his mask. How? It almost doesn’t matter. What matters is when Lundqvist will be able to get back in net.
Because, let’s be honest, Lundqvist is the backbone of this Blueshirts squad. That much was obvious as soon as he left the ice on Wednesday night. The Rangers allowed a goal just moments after Lundqvist was injured and the team looked disoriented for the two periods without him in net.
It wasn’t good.
But go ahead and breath a sigh of – almost – relief, Rangerstown. Lundqvist practiced on Friday. Check it out:
According to Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, Lundqvist is officially a game-time decision for Game 2 of the series against the Penguins on Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.
Lundqvist spent almost all of practice in net, while Antti Raanta – who took over for the starter in Game 1 – was the other goalie on the ice. Not practicing? Magnus Hellberg, who was recently called up from the Rangers’ AHL affiliate as a precaution.
Vigneault was quick to downplay his franchise goalie’s injury on Thursday, telling Newsday:
He’s been checked by our doctors, but at this time, we don’t feel that it’s anything too serious. There’s a little bit of swelling near the [right] eye and we’ll have more news [Friday]…it’s just a matter of where the injury is and being on the safe side.
The Rangers aren’t the only ones dealing with goalie injuries in this series either. Penguins starter Marc-Andre Fleury missed Game 1 after sustaining a concussion late in the regular season. Fleury isn’t positive, however, he’ll appear on Saturday afternoon, despite practicing on Friday, saying “I don’t expect it, but I hope so. It feels like it’s been forever.”