Henrik Lundqvist

Goalie nods: Lundqvist won’t get to ease back in

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Long live the King?

As already noted earlier today, it appears as though Henrik Lundqvist will make his return to the New York Rangers’ net as they face the Boston Bruins (who most likely will roll with Tuukka Rask).

Normally, this would be a cause for outright glee, and it’s true that “King Henrik” will be gladly welcomed back into the fold. Still, the Rangers have been on a tear thanks in a large part to Cam Talbot’s wonderful play in Hank’s absence, so it remains to be seen if New York sees a little fall-off.

Let there be no doubt that the Bruins will send their best at Lundqvist, so this isn’t exactly an example of easing a player back into the mix.

This is just one of several games during an unusually busy Saturday afternoon, so hopefully hockey fans already got their errands (and napping) done today.

Elsewhere:

Predators at Capitals: Pekka Rinne vs. Braden Holtby

Ducks at Islanders: Probably Frederik Andersen vs. Michal Neuvirth

Sharks at Flyers: Alex Stalock vs. (likely) Steve Mason

Coyotes at Penguins: Mike Smith vs. Thomas Greiss

Lightning at Red Wings: Likely Ben Bishop s. Petr Mrazek

Senators at Maple Leafs: Craig Anderson vs. James Reimer

Panthers at Canadiens: Roberto Luongo vs. Carey Price

Devils at Hurricanes: Keith Kinkaid vs. Cam Ward

Blue Jackets at Blues: Likely Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Brian Elliott

Kings at Wild: Likely Jonathan Quick vs. Devan Dubnyk

Sabres at Avalanche: ANders Lindback vs. Semyon Varlamov

Stars at Canucks: Maybe Kari Lehtonen vs. Eddie Lack

Gearing up: Malkin, Hornqvist return for Pens

The Eastern Conference’s strongest teams just seem to be getting stronger on Saturday.

Just moments after it was revealed that Henrik Lundqvist will return for the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed that Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist are back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes today.

For all the worries about the Penguins’ shaky play lately, plenty have countered that Pittsburgh has been rocked by another season full of injury challenges. Getting two key forwards back – Hornqvist has shown that he can be a huge contributor, too – should provide a little more clarity regarding the Penguins’ position among the East’s power brokers.

Of course, it might take one or both of these scorers some time to get healthy and up to speed. The good news is that the Penguins have two weeks to gear up for the postseason, so the hope is that they’ll shake off any rust by then.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe provided his guess as far as how Pittsburgh’s lines might look against the Coyotes:

The King is back: Lundqvist starts for Rangers Saturday

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The first team to clinch a playoff spot will get its franchise goalie back on Saturday as the New York Rangers officially see the return of Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers have been playing surprisingly well since Lundqvist decided to play it safe with his throat issues starting on Feb. 2. One gets the impression that Cam Talbot’s brilliant work made it that much more comfortable for Lundqvist, 33, to ease back into the lineup.

That said, this first game back should test the stellar Swede. He’s facing the Boston Bruins today, a team that is absolutely fighting for their playoff lives.

Considering the fact that the postseason is basically two weeks away, it’s probably best for “The King” to jump right back into the thick of things.

Could Lundqvist start Saturday for the Rangers?

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The New York Rangers play twice this weekend — on the road against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, and at home against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Earlier this week, it was reported Henrik Lundqvist expected to return to the Rangers lineup this weekend. But, could Lundqvist, who backed up Cam Talbot against Ottawa on Thursday, get the start in goal against the Bruins?

From Andrew Gross of The Record:

Henrik Lundqvist also was on the ice as the signs point to him making his first start after 25 games on Saturday. Lundqvist was due to have a discussion with coach Alain Vigneault and, no doubt, goalie coach Benoit Allaire to decide whether he would start against the Bruins or Sunday afternoon against the Capitals at Madison Square Garden. But, make no mistake, Lundqvist is antsy to play so we all know what his input will be. Prior to Thursday’s 5-1 win at Ottawa, Lundqvist flatly declared, “I’m ready.”

The Rangers clinched a playoff spot on Thursday, and it was Talbot who stepped up and played so well when Lundqvist went down to to injury, helping get New York back to the post-season.

“I’m more impressed than surprised,” said Lundqvist of Talbot to Newsday.

“He’s been working hard since Day 1. He’s a confident guy and a lot of times, it starts with confidence. There’s a lot of goalies who can work hard and have good technique, but a lot of times, it’s the mind-set and the confidence that decides if you’re going to be successful or not. I think he believes in his game, and having Benny [Benoit Allaire] as his coach helps him pay attention to the details.”

Five big games to watch this weekend

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Only three weekends to go before the NHL playoffs start. Here are five games to watch this weekend, each with at least one desperate team involved:

Tonight — Calgary at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET)

Now one point back of the surging Kings, and with just eight games to go (six on the road), Calgary could really use a win here. The Wild, meanwhile, could open a six-point playoff cushion with a regulation victory. And while it’s unlikely, there’s still an outside shot Minnesota could catch Chicago for third spot in the Central.

Saturday — NY Rangers at Boston (1 p.m. ET)

Spend the afternoon watching the Bruins fight for their playoff lives, versus the only team that’s officially clinched. The B’s, winless in their last six, know there will be “consequences” if they don’t get the job done. And lately, well, they just haven’t been getting the job done. Oh, and this could also be Henrik Lundqvist’s first game back. In case that interests anyone.

Saturday — Los Angeles at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET)

Even after three impressive road wins, the Kings could still become the first defending champs since the 2006-07 Hurricanes to miss the playoffs. Regulation losses Saturday to the Wild and Monday in Chicago are certainly plausible, no? That could leave the Kings in need of four wins in their final six games to qualify. Best for them they get a point or two against the Wild and ‘Hawks.

Sunday — Florida at Ottawa (5 p.m. ET)

A Panthers loss here would basically be it for them, even if they manage to upset the Habs Saturday in Montreal. Florida also plays Tuesday in Boston. Win all three and maybe we’ll find some optimism, but the end seems near for a Panthers side that’s gamely hung around all season. (Obviously, a big game for Sens too. They play in Toronto Saturday against the sideshow Leafs.)

Sunday — Boston at Carolina (5 p.m. ET)

Do not look at the standings and expect the Bruins to roll over the Hurricanes. Carolina soundly outplayed the B’s the last time they met, Jan. 4 in Raleigh, where Boston didn’t get its first shot until 17 minutes into the first period. It was that loss, in fact, that preceded the infamous warning from Charlie Jacobs.