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Hartnett: Rangers Expect Henrik Lundqvist To Shine In MSG Opener

Teammates Have Supreme Confidence In King Henrik
Henrik Lundqvist (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Henrik Lundqvist (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Monday night is the night when Henrik Lundqvist’s season of misery turns around. At least according to backup goaltender Cam Talbot, who offered the following prediction: “He’s going to come out and backstop the boys to a big win tonight in front of the home crowd.”

Head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed on Sunday that Lundqvist will start in the Rangers’ Monday night home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

Magic tends to happen when the 31-year-old Swede takes his customary place between the pipes at The World’s Most Famous Arena.

20-year-old forward J.T. Miller is constantly amazed by what he sees from Lundqvist on a nightly basis.

“I’ve seen everything he has to offer,” Miller said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s completely world-class and it’s really exciting to be a part of that when he starts making big saves. It seems like he just does it all the time.”

The roar of the Garden faithful forces the ultra-competitive Lundqvist to search for new levels of desire, as he stretches and contorts his agile 5-foot-11 frame into making one sensational save after another.

Lundqvist can use the comforts of home after the Rangers began the season on a bumpy nine-game road trip that saw inspirational captain Ryan Callahan, star scorer Rick Nash and Lundqvist all fall victim to injuries.

The former Vezina Trophy winner admitted last week that he’s been dealing with a day-to-day injury for the past two weeks.

Neither Lundqvist nor the Rangers have disclosed the nature of the injury that contributed to Lundqvist’s subpar play between the pipes.

Through seven games, Lundqvist is 2-4-0 with a bloated 3.45 goals against average. Expect those numbers to turn around into sparkling brilliance now that Lundqvist is finally, in his words, “100 percent” healthy.

TALBOT REFLECTS ON FIRST CAREER WIN IN DETROIT

Talbot was besieged by text messages after he earned his first career win over the Detroit Red Wings in thrilling overtime fashion.

The 26-year-old’s phone was buzzing when he got back to his locker at Joe Louis Arena.

“I think I had about 30 text messages even before I got back to my phone,” Talbot said. “It was pretty unbelievable support from my family and just an unbelievable night I’ll never forget.”

Talbot didn’t pause to reflect at his accomplishment when Derick Brassard scored the overtime winner. His first reaction was to rush over to his teammates to join in the celebrations.

“As soon as I saw that puck go in the net, I don’t even know what I thought,” Talbot said. “I just skated as fast as I could. I couldn’t really believe that I got my first win at Joe Louis Arena.”

STILL NO UPDATE ON NASH

The Rangers’ official word on injured winger Nash has not changed. During Monday morning’s press conference, Vigneault was asked about an update on Nash’s status. Vigneault looked over to a Rangers team spokesman, who uttered, “Nothing new.”

Nash hasn’t played for the Rangers since suffering a concussion on October 8 in San Jose. Updates on the 29-year-old winger have been closely guarded by the Rangers. Nash hasn’t been around at recent practices in Tarrytown and Madison Square Garden.

Yet Vigneault’s words spoke volumes about whether Nash’s absence will be long-term.

“I haven’t asked,” Vigneault said.

If Vigneault isn’t checking on Nash’s status, expect the Rangers to be without their star winger for the long haul.

VIGNEAULT POKES FUN AT TORTS

Vigneault lightened the mood during Monday morning’s press conference by poking fun at former Rangers head coach John Tortorella.

As Vigneault stepped to the podium, a cell phone rang.

“If I were Torts, I’d be leaving,” Vigneault joked.

Tortorella has been known for his abrupt press conferences and the ability to cut short an interview at any time. Cell phones sounding off particularly drew the ire of Torts during his time in New York.

HAGELIN’S IMPENDING RETURN EXCITES VIGNEAULT

25-year-old winger Carl Hagelin will be eligible to come off the long-term injured reserve on Tuesday, ahead of the Rangers’ meeting with the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Hagelin is yet to suit up for the Rangers this season. He will be unavailable for Monday’s season opener. Vigneault is looking forward to the opportunity to add Hagelin’s game-changing speed to his lineup.

“I haven’t seen him in a game, but I have seen him quite a bit in practice because he’s been practicing with us now for quite some time,” Vigneault said. “That speed factor (when) five-on-five, and that speed factor killing penalties should push the opposition a little bit, make the opposition think he’s so quick and so dynamic. I’m really looking forward to having him in the lineup.”

Hagelin scored 10 goals and registered 14 assists in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Swedish forward was a very reliable player in all areas of the ice under Tortorella. It appears that Vigneault is ready to lean heavily on Hagelin once he returns to game action.

Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.

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