Rangers, Blackhawks clash in New York
(SportsNetwork.com) - Henrik Lundqvist anchored Team Sweden to a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, but the New York Rangers aren't ready to throw their star goaltender back into the fire when they emerge from the break to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
Lundqvist went 5-1 with a 1.50 goals against average at the Olympic tournament in Sochi, getting his only loss in the gold medal game against Canada. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he'll give his No. 1 netminder extra rest by starting backup Cam Talbot on Thursday, pushing Lundqvist's post-Olympics debut to Saturday when New York visits the Philadelphia Flyers.
"We talked yesterday. He felt good," Vigneault said Thursday of Lundqvist. "I just thought, considering what he'd been through, to give him an extra day."
Another Rangers' Olympian, forward Mats Zuccarello, will not be available for at least the next three weeks after suffering a broken hand while representing Norway at the Sochi Games. Zuccarello is leading the Rangers this season with 43 points on 15 goals and 28 assists.
Rick Nash, who won gold with Canada in Sochi, is among the Rangers who will have to pick up the offensive slack without Zuccarello in the lineup. Although Nash is leading New York with 18 goals this season, he failed to register a point in the team's final five games before the Olympics and he had just one assist in six outings for Team Canada.
The Rangers enter Thursday with 67 points and are holding onto the second of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the postseason. New York is one point ahead of Philadelphia for second place in the division.
The Blueshirts were hot before the break, winning five of six prior to the league's hiatus. New York also is 1-0 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks this season, posting a 3-2 regulation decision in the Windy City on Jan. 8. The Rangers have claimed five of the past eight meetings in this series.
Chicago posted a 3-1-1 mark in the games leading into the break and the club is tied with St. Louis for first place in the Central Division.
The Blackhawks are wrapping a seven-game road trip tonight and are 3-1-2 so far on the swing. The club's next game is Saturday's outdoor battle versus the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears.