Is Henrik Lundqvist back?
If the 43 saves he had against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night are any indication, Lundqvist is as close to back as he's been all season. He will look to continue this roll against the visiting Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
Lundqvist hasn't had a save percentage worse than .920 since the 2008-09 season and has a career mark of .920. But this season, the 34-year-old has dipped to .910, a number that is close to his high-water mark for the season.
The lack of support has been an issue, but Lundqvist has shown signs that he's adjusting to the shoddy defense he has in front of him on most nights.
"The game is changing a little bit, the way we are giving up scoring chances now compared to maybe a few years ago," Lundqvist said. "I think I need to adjust my game a little bit; a little bit more on my toes, a little bit more aggressive, and I think it is helping my game. It's a big thing too when you see the shot the whole way, how you can react to it.
"That was something we have been talking about for the last few days, try to box out more and try to block the shot and give me the shot. It makes a big difference when you can read the shot from the get go."
Translation: If you're going to give up a ton of shots, at least get out of the way so the goalie can see it and do your best to clear rebounds away from the guys you've been leaving open all season.
Another benefit New York enjoyed against the Ducks was the return of Kevin Hayes from a five-game absence and four healthy lines at full strength. Every Rangers forward except Pavel Buchnevich, who had an assist in 9:56 of ice time, played at least 10 minutes against the Ducks.
When the Rangers were rolling early in the season, it was because they were getting offense from everywhere. If they can get back to scoring four goals per game a little more often, that will take some pressure off Lundqvist.
"There's no doubt that balance and being able to roll four lines is important," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "There are a couple of areas (against Anaheim) that I would definitely want to clean up. That being said, Hank makes some timely saves and we're able to get some timely goals and capitalize on some of their mistakes. We'll take the two points and get ready for the next game."
The Predators have alternated wins and losses over their past seven games and come to New York after a 4-2 home win against the Vancouver Canucks. It marked the 10th time in their past 13 games they've earned at least a point, a big reason why Nashville has surged into third place in the Central.
"I think you can see how hard we're working out on the ice," defenseman Roman Josi said. "That's who we are. When we're doing that, we can find the wins."
It also helped that the Predators found some offense -- the four goals against the Canucks matched their total in their previous three games combined. But what's been more important for Nashville after a slow start is the team's overall willingness to play a more defensive style that has led to tougher backchecking that wasn't there earlier.
"At the start of the season, we were just trying to find the identity of the team and 20 games in, we hadn't found that," said Predators forward Filip Forsberg. "Now it's getting better and we're just trying to improve on that."
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