Why Lundqvist is so determined not to rush back too soon

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 19 Maret 2015 | 18.18

After all this, Henrik Lundqvist isn't about to rush.

The Rangers franchise netminder said on Wednesday night "it's been a long six weeks," and it sure has been since he first suffered a blood vessel injury in the back of his neck on Jan. 31. Yet he was cleared Tuesday to practice, and he was cleared to speak to the media before the Rangers' 1-0 loss to the Blackhawks, when he said he will rejoin the lineup only when he's good and ready.

"I'm not going to force it," Lundqvist said. "It's not about me, it's about what's best for the team, too. I'm not going to just jump out there because I want to play. I want to make sure when I go out there, I feel ready and I can make a difference and help the team. Before that, it's better for everyone if I just stay in practice and work on my game."

The plan is for the 31-year-old Lundqvist to practice as much as possible — which, with the Rangers' upcoming schedule, isn't very much. They have just two full-team practices over the next week, Friday and next Wednesday before they leave for Ottawa for the beginning of a two-game, four-day trip, which Lundqvist plans to be on.

On March 26, the Rangers are in Ottawa against the Senators, then the following Saturday afternoon they play the Bruins in Boston. If Lundqvist has a flair for the dramatic, that 1 p.m. game might be when the lights are brightest in a possible playoff series preview.

Before that, this weekend brings a back-to-back, against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday night, and home against the Ducks on Sunday. One would think there isn't enough practice time to be ready for either of those games — but it's also hard to underestimate Lundqvist's competitive fire, and his gift of persuasion over the coaching staff.

Tuesday is also a Garden match against the Kings, the team that happened to have ousted Lundqvist and the Rangers in the five-game Stanley Cup final last June. Talk about dramatic, if possible.

"I want to take the first week here just to skate with the guys and get more speed into my practice," Lundqvist said, "then we kind of take it from there."

Lundqvist said the doctors told him the chance for a stroke as a byproduct of his injury — which is what has kept him out so long — is gone. Although, he added, "I think the first week, I'm going to try to stay away from using my head when I get a high shot."

It's easier for Lundqvist to laugh and smile in this situation, as his team had gone 15-3-2 in his absence, with 13 of those wins coming by way of his understudy, Cam Talbot. By vaulting not just into first place in the Metropolitan Division, but into contention for the Presidents' Trophy, the urgency for Lundqvist to return has been minimized.

"Cam is playing great, so it's not a stress factor there," Lundqvist said. "The team is doing amazing. So I just need to focus on my own game to be ready when the time is right."

During the first four weeks of the injury, Lundqvist said it was too hard to get emotionally involved in the team's games because he knew he was going to be out a while. But that blow was softened with the help of the doctors, who gave him a rough outline, and who hinted that this week could be the one when he gets to return.

"Early on, they gave me a game plan for this whole situation [and] pretty much what they told me from Day 1 happened," Lundqvist said. "We didn't tell you guys everything, but to me, the discussions we had, the evaluations and checkups we had, I felt very well taken care of."

And now it's about him getting ready for the stretch run, and helping his team try to get back to playing for the Stanley Cup.

"I'm just very happy that I have the progress I had," Lundqvist said, "just to give myself an opportunity to get back into things in the time before it really heats up."


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