Henrik Lundqvist

Game of the Week preview: Are the Rangers playing Henrik Lundqvist too much?


During the last few years, the New York Rangers have given Henrik Lundqvist a staggering amount of starts for two main reasons: 1) he’s an exceptional goalie and 2) the team rarely has any margin of error, so they cannot play a lesser netminder.

Yet during this off-season, the team made a wise decision by signing an experienced, capable backup in Martin Biron. Biron seemed like the ideal No. 2 in New York; he’s talented enough that he actually started a bit in the league but flawed enough that Lundqvist wouldn’t be worried about a goalie controversy.

Lundqvist still received the majority of starts, but Biron appeared in 17 games (most of which he started, a few in relief when Lundqvist struggled) before he suffered a frightening collar bone injury on the evening after the trade deadline.

Because of that injury and the Rangers’ general tendency to play Lundqvist the majority of time anyway, King Henrik hasn’t missed a start since February 7th. He’s played 16 consecutive games between the pipes, with no sign that he’ll get a breather in the next 10 contests. (Unless, of course, he is sidelined with an injury from Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.)

Now, it’s true that the Rangers have dealt with a slew of injuries during the 2010-11 season, with stars such as Marian Gaborik missing time. But Biron’s injury might be one of those subtle losses – and poorly timed ones – that might end up being big blow for the team. The Rangers have been forced to give Lundqvist start after start with Biron on the shelf, which isn’t always a great formula for success in the playoffs.

Even if Lundqvist is healthy enough to play every game, the Rangers might want to consider walking a tightrope between resting him a bit and ensuring their spot in the playoffs. Sure, the extra revenue from a few first round games is great, but if your team has no chance to advance in the postseason, then making the playoffs isn’t nearly as beneficial as it might seem.

So, what do you think? Are the Rangers leaning on their elite goalie too much or should they just throw caution to the wind to protect their spot in the East’s top eight? Let us know in the comments.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.