The Rangers have carefully managed goaltender Henrik Lundqvist virtually all season, limiting his starts and working in reliable backup Martin Biron, but those days appear to be over with the team on the brink of post-season play.
Lundqvist will make his eight straight start Friday against Montreal -- his longest streak this season of consecutive games played. The 30-year-old netminder (37-16-5, .932 save %, 1.93 GAA) has recorded three straight wins as the Rangers charge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and will be back between the pipes as the Rangers face the downtrodden Habs.
"The most important thing is to finish strong and to build our confidence in going into the playoffs," he said. "But again, looking down the road here, home-ice advantage could play a huge part."
With a five-point lead in the East, the Rangers need only five more to clinch a conference title, and the chances of them doing so looks even better after the threatening Penguins dropped a pair of games to the Islanders this week. Should his team claim the top spot, perhaps Lundqvist gets a game off to rest, but with the next three games against Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that scenario is questionable.
Regardless of whether Lundqvist starts all five heading into the playoffs or four, he seemed unconcerned with any potential fatigue.
"This is what I'm used to, playing a lot, and I feel good," he said. "I'm a little more relaxed in between games because you're playing all the time and you're in it. Sometimes you sit out and you might over-think it. More importantly, I think we will practice a little less and be more about stay ready for the games. Right now, it's an exciting time."