After a season in which Henrik Lundqvist struggled down the stretch and admitted he felt fatigued, the Rangers wanted to lighten their starting netminder’s workload.
Tonight, that plan will come into effect — after Lundqvist went 1-1 over the first two games of the year, the Blueshirts will turn to Antti Raanta tonight when they host the Sharks at MSG.
“Last year, it was more games where [there were] more scoring chances, more shots,” Lundqvist said earlier this month, per the New York Post. “That can take a toll.”
Lundqvist, 34, did not have a very good finish to the ’15-16 campaign. He had an .867 save percentage in five playoff games versus the Penguins. And just prior to that, he’d struggled down the stretch of the regular season, allowing 39 goals in his last 13 games combined.
Raanta, meanwhile, was one of the league’s better backups, going 11-6-2 with a 2.24 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Though it’s a small sample size, Lundqvist’s numbers haven’t been great this year. He’s allowed six goals on 46 shots, an .870 save percentage.
Per the Post, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said research showed that successful teams start their No. 1 between 50-58 regular season games, so it’ll be interesting to see how that effects Lundqvist.
Traditionally, the veteran Swede has been a workhorse, often starting more than 60 times a year. Last season Lundqvist started the first six games before Raanta made his debut.
For the Sharks, Martin Jones will be in goal tonight.
— Calvin Pickard will make his season debut for the Avs tonight in Pittsburgh. Semyon Varlamov was in goal for a wild 6-5 win over Dallas in the season opener and, with Colorado in the first of a back-to-back set, Varlamov is expected to be back in goal tomorrow in Washington. For the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury gets the start.
— Andrew Hammond makes his season debut for the Sens in Detroit. The Wings will go with Petr Mrazek for the third straight game.
More: A final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and the Wings need to be better
— After ceding Saturday’s game in Toronto to Anton Khudobin, Tuukka Rask is expected to start for the Bruins tonight in Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck returns to the Jets net, after Michael Hutchinson played in Saturday’s loss to the Wild.