The New York Rangers went into the season with plans of limiting Henrik Lundqvist to about 60 games, but that will likely only happen if Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is comfortable with backup goaltender Antti Raanta.
The 26-year-old netminder will get his first chance to build that level of trust tonight as the Rangers have confirmed that Raanta will make his season debut against the San Jose Sharks.
Raanta will be tasked with filling the void left by Cam Talbot, who for two years was a superb understudy for Lundqvist. Talbot also played a key role last season after Lundqvist suffered a vascular injury in his neck that sidelined him for most of February and March.
The Rangers’ new backup goaltender had a superb 1.89 GAA and .936 save percentage in 14 contests with Chicago in 2014-15, but he still lost the backup job to Scott Darling. That was trying for Raanta and led to a report from the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that he hoped Nashville would sweep the Blackhawks in the first round. While he later denied making that comment, the interviewer said that it’s on tape, but that the quote lacked context.
Regardless, this is a fresh start for Raanta and an opportunity for him to play an important part on another team that’s regarded as a serious Stanley Cup contender.