ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist plays his first game in nearly three weeks when the New York Rangers meet the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night at the Honda Center.
Lundqvist -- the Rangers' all-time leader in wins, shutouts, saves and appearances by a goalie -- strained his left hip while making 43 saves March 7 in a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Before that injury, the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner had 30 wins, a 2.65 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
"You can't expect to feel perfect right away," Lundqvist said in a video on the team's website. "You have to work yourself into feeling good by focusing on all the little things. I think the first game, you might be a little rusty but you just go out there and compete. The rest will just take care of itself. I'm not worried about that. I look forward to it. I missed being out there."
Lundqvist, who turned 35 on March 2, is not the only veteran returning to the lineup. Defenseman Dan Girardi played in Saturday night's 3-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings after an open wound on his right ankle caused him to miss a career-high 12 games. Fellow defenseman Kevin Klein, who missed the past 16 games with a back injury, will join them soon.
"At some point here in the next three games, he's going to play, without a doubt," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said on video. "It's taken awhile to get our team healthy. But it is now."
That return to collective health could not come at a more pivotal time for the Rangers, who play the second contest of their three-game California trip Sunday night. New York ends the trek in San Jose on Tuesday night.
"A big thing about our group is making sure that we better ourselves each day to get to playing our best hockey at the end of the year," center Derek Stepan said on video. "We have a great opportunity on this trip against some really good teams, teams fighting for their lives, fighting for playoff spots. There's a huge importance on this road trip on getting as many points as we can."
Meanwhile, the Ducks expect starting goalie John Gibson to return soon. Despite missing 12 of the past 13 games because of a lower-body injury, Gibson still ranks among the NHL's top 10 in shutouts, goals-against average and save percentage.
"It looks like he's on the road to recovery," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register, adding that Gibson needed "a couple more practices," he said. "I hope that he's going to become available to us in the next short term here."
With Gibson out, Jonathan Bernier has excelled. Bernier is 9-2-1 in his past 12 games with a shutout, a 1.89 GAA and .940 save percentage.
As a result, Anaheim won seven of its past nine and shares first place in the Pacific Division with San Jose and the Edmonton Oilers.
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