TORONTO – If the New York Rangers stick to the plan, this will be a game-day routine Henrik Lundqvist has to get used to.
The Rangers’ top goaltender found himself on the ice at Air Canada Centre long after his teammates on Thursday morning, getting in some extra work with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire.
With counterpart Martin Biron scheduled to get the start against the Toronto Maple Leafs later in the evening, Lundqvist was eager to get some extra practice in.
The Swede has been a workhorse since entering the NHL—he’s appeared in at least 70 games the past four years—but is expecting to see less work this season after New York brought in Biron over the summer.
“I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, but the reason why they signed him is because they want me to play a little less,” said Lundqvist. “I don’t know what the number will be, 60-65 (games). We’ll see, I have to perform and play well if I’m going to earn my minutes.
“I’m just going to work hard and whenever (coach John Tortorella) tells me to play, I play.”
While four games is a very small sample size, Lundqvist has seen more action this season than in years past. The team has allowed an average of 35 shots per game—five more than any other year he’s played for them—and his numbers have suffered a bit as a result.
The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist acknowledges that he’s been slow to find his form.
Tortorella indicated that one of the factors behind starting Biron is that the coaching staff felt Lundqvist needed some more time with Allaire, the brother of Maple Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire.
The two were on the ice for more than an hour on Thursday morning.
“Shape-wise I feel great,” said Lundqvist. “It’s just technically, you still have to work on a few things to get back to 100 per cent. That’s why Benny, our goalie coach, is repeating a lot of stuff after practice. I take this week as a good week to practise hard.”
Biron was quick to sign a two-year deal with the Rangers immediately after becoming a free agent on July 1. After a rocky season with the cross-town Islanders last year, he’s hoping to take his game to “another level” on Broadway.
Despite playing behind one of the league’s top goalies, the 33-year-old can count on getting a good chance to do that. The coaching staff is committed to giving Biron his fair share of starts.
“He needs to get in,” said Tortorella. “We’ve played Hank the first four games here. We have a plan with Biron as far as making sure he gets his time (and) we’ve got to be really careful not to move away from that plan when you’re going through a little bit of adversity.
“It’s tough thing to do sometimes when you have Hank and you want to keep on coming back with him. But it gives Hank a chance to work out for four or five days here, and work on his game.”