Goalie nods: Talbot gets another start for the Rangers, who aren’t surprised he’s been so good

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With an astounding .967 save percentage in his last six starts, Rangers goalie Cam Talbot will be back between the pipes tonight when the Blueshirts, still without starter Henrik Lundqvist, host the Chicago Blackhawks (on NBCSN).

Talbot’s latest triumph came Sunday when he stopped 38 of 39 Florida shots in a 2-1 victory.

Call his play surprising if you want, but the Rangers aren’t shocked.

“It didn’t surprise anybody in here,” d-man Marc Staal said after the Panthers game. “We’re excited for him to get an opportunity to show what he’s got on a consistent basis. He’s been very good for us as a backup. It’s his time to shine.”

No word yet who will start for the ‘Hawks. Corey Crawford made 38 saves last night in beating the Islanders at the United Center, so it could mean Scott Darling’s first appearance since Feb. 27.

Elsewhere…

Ben Scrivens for the Oilers at home to the Blue Jackets, who are likely to go with Curtis McElhinney.

John Gibson for the Ducks at home to the Kings, who are likely to go with Jonathan Quick.

Related: Andersen or Gibson — who starts for Anaheim in the playoffs?

Doan: Arizona’s situation is ‘kind of embarrassing’

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With just 12 games left in the season, the Arizona Coyotes find themselves sitting 28th in the NHL, tied on 50 points with Edmonton, just three up on last-place Buffalo and right in the thick of the McEichel Derby.

For the organization, there’s silver lining in the prospect of landing a generational talent like Conor McDavid or Jack Eichel at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

But for veteran captain Shane Doan, this year has been lousy.

“Obviously, it’s kind of embarrassing,” Doan said, per Mayor’s Manor. “As a player, it’s always tough. You never want to be stuck in this situation, but we are and we have to deal with it. The new guys coming in, they’ve played well. We’ve been in games; we just haven’t found ways to win, and that’s the name of it.

“It’s just disappointing. You just feel bad, we’ve been bad. There’s no way to get around it. We’ve been bad and we have to be better.”

Doan, 39, is one of a few holdovers from the team that went to the Western Conference Final just three years ago. Fellow vets Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek and Keith Yandle were traded at this year’s deadline, the latest in an exodus that previously saw Radim Vrbata, Raffi Torres, Daymond Langkow, Ray Whitney and Rostislav Klesla all leave town.

The result? Arizona’s slumped steadily and hit rock bottom this season, especially over the last 16 games — the Coyotes are 1-14-1 and Doan’s one pace for one of the least productive seasons of his career (averaging .46 points per game, his lowest since ’97-98.)

Earlier this month, Doan expressed dismay about the direction Arizona was taking, saying a rebuild “was not my idea,” and “not my ideal situation.”

That was met with a rather sharp reply from GM Don Maloney.

“I get it, I understand it, but we’re not in the Girl Scout business,” Maloney said, per Arizona Sports. “We’re in the business of winning. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re getting paid.

“Shane’s a pro, he’ll get through it, he’ll understand it when he sees where this can take us.”

That back-and-forth reignited talks about Doan’s future in the desert. He’s in the third of a four-year, $21.2 million deal and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, leading many to speculate he could be on the move to a contender.

Doan didn’t say he wanted to be moved,  but didn’t rule it out either.

“I really haven’t thought too much about it, going forward,” he explained. “It’s one of those things – we have 14, 15 games to go. Every game you get to play in the NHL is pretty special. I don’t want to miss those games. I want to make sure I’m focused on them and enjoying the moment that we’re in; not getting caught up worrying about what’s going to happen in the future.

“When you get there, it will take care of itself.”

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks seek revenge for Rangers’ OT win

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The first game of that series will see the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. The Kings and Ducks square off at 10:30 in the nightcap. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the games and pre-show online.

The Chicago Blackhawks have only lost once this month and it was to the New York Rangers. Goaltenders Corey Crawford and Cam Talbot were perfect through 60 minutes when these two squads met for the first time this season on March 8 and it took a Derick Brassard marker 32 seconds into overtime to end the contest in the Rangers’ favor.

“It’s two good teams going at it, fighting for big points right now,” Talbot said at the time, per NHL.com. “They’re trying to climb spots in their division, same as we are, so it’s going to be a battle going down the stretch against teams like that. Every point is huge right now, so it was great we came out with the extra one tonight.”

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A week and a half later, that statement is still largely true. With 90 points in 69 contests, Chicago has the third seed in the Central Division, but is still within striking distance of the Nashville Predators (94 points in 72 contests) and St. Louis Blues (95 points in 70 games). Securing home-ice advantage for as deep into the playoffs as possible could be big given how many dangerous teams there are in the West this season. Beyond that, the simple act of going into the playoffs with momentum on their side could end up being the difference for the Blackhawks.

The main difference is the Rangers are no longer chasing their division rivals. They’ve won five straight to improve to 44-17-7 while the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have slumped, giving the Rangers a significant edge in the Metropolitan Division race. At this point, the bigger question for the Rangers is whether or not they’ll win the Presidents’ Trophy. That battle couldn’t be tighter right now as the Rangers are tied with the Blues, Anaheim Ducks, and Montreal Canadiens in terms of points. The Nashville Predators (94 points in 72 games) and Tampa Bay Lightning (93 points in 71 contests) are still in the running too.

The Rangers success has been made even more impressive by the fact that they’ve been missing former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist since Feb. 2. Chicago has preserved through similar hardship due to the loss of Patrick Kane.

This is the last time these two teams are scheduled to face each other, although given the strength of their respective rosters and past playoff success, this might end up being a Stanley Cup preview.

The King is back: Lundqvist cleared to return to Rangers practice

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Henrik Lundqvist took a significant step towards returning from a vascular injury on Tuesday, as the Rangers announced he’s been medically cleared to return to practice.

Lundqvist, who suffered the injury in late January and hasn’t played since Feb. 2, will begin skating with teammates in the hope of getting back into game action. Per yesterday’s report from The Hockey News, the 33-year-old netminder is targeting his return date on Mar. 24 against Los Angeles — a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

When ready, Lundqvist will rejoin a Blueshirts team that’s thrived in his absence. While some figured the club would take a step back with Cam Talbot as its No. 1 netminder, New York has done the opposite — in 20 games sans-Lundqvist the Rangers have gone a remarkable 15-2-3, vaulting atop the NHL standings.

Another injury blow for Rangers: St. Louis (lower body) out 10-14 days

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The streaking New York Rangers took another hit in the health department on Monday, as the club revealed Martin St. Louis could miss up to two weeks with a lower-body injury, suffered Sunday against Florida.

Per Newsday, St. Louis is believed to have suffered a right knee injury, which may have happened in this sequence:

As the Bergen Record notes, it looks as though St. Louis told trainer Jim Ramsey he felt a “pop” in the knee.

The 39-year-old veteran has 20 goals and 47 points in 68 games this year, averaging over 17-and-a-half minutes per night. Now, he’ll join two other key veterans on the shelf: Henrik Lundqvist, who is still dealing with a vascular injury, and Kevin Klein, who’s out 3-4 weeks with an arm injury.

Assuming St. Louis misses the full two weeks, that would put him on target for a Mar. 30 return — meaning he’d miss the next seven games, including a game on Mar. 24 against Los Angeles, which is a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final (on NBCSN.)

That game, not coincidentally, is when Lundqvist is rumored to return to the Rangers lineup.