New York Rangers: Cam Talbot

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- If Henrik Lundqvist struggles at any point during the Stanley Cup Finals, as he did in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens, will backup Cam Talbot even be available in relief?

That much remains unclear, as the 26-year-old netminder was absent from practice Sunday at the team's practice facility in Westchester. According to the Rangers he has an "unspecified injury."

After practice, coach Alain Vigneault said that Talbot is "day-to-day" but when pressed further on the issue, he said he did not wish to discuss the situation.

It is not immediately known whether Talbot sustained the injury, or aggravated a pre-existing condition, when he came in for Lundqvist in Game 5 at Bell Centre Tuesday night. Talbot entered the game in the second period after Lundqvist gave up four goals on the first 18 shots he faced.

Talbot surrendered two goals on eight shots during that 7-2 loss. It was his second playoff appearance this spring. He also replaced Lundqvist in Game 6 of the team's first-round series against Philadelphia, stopping all five shots faced from the Flyers.

J.T. Miller, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 5, skated on his own and is expected to be available at some point of the Stanley Cup Final, maybe even Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Rangers were still awaiting their opponent with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 Sunday night at the United Center.

Biron: Vigneault right to stick with Talbot

May, 28, 2014
May 28
MSG Network NHL analyst (and former Blueshirt) Martin Biron thinks New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the right decision to stick with backup goaltender Cam Talbot after the coach pulled starter Henrik Lundqvist in the second period Tuesday night.

With the Rangers trailing the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in Game 5 at Bell Centre, Vigneault decided to replace Lundqvist with Talbot. The Rangers countered with three straight goals to tie the game at 4. At that point, many hoped Vigneault would go back to Lundqvist, but the coach elected against it.

New York ultimately lost to Montreal 7-4. The Rangers lead the Canadiens 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Biron explained his reasoning during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's “The Michael Kay Show” on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think they made the right decision; really, it was the only decision,” Biron said. “When you’ve pulled your starter for the backup in the second period, and it’s a situation like this, at 4-1, you’re kinda telling [him], ‘Listen, just go relax. Do whatever you gotta do to get ready for Game 6, because this one, if we win it, it’s a bonus. We’re just gonna try to change something, and we know Talbot has played well in Montreal, so it’s a situation where he can come in and give us a few saves and let’s see if he can get us back in the game.'

“Now what I thought was interesting is because of where Talbot is [relative to the bench], it’s hard for the coach to tell him you’re going in the net; so he’s across the bench in Montreal, he’s not sitting on the bench, so now it takes about a minute, a minute-and-a-half, almost two minutes after they scored their fourth goal to get Lundqvist out of the net. Now I started thinking to myself, ‘What if the Rangers score a goal and they make it 4-2, do you pull Lundqvist?’ Because Talbot’s already getting his equipment, and the answer was, yes, you still pull him because it’s not his night, it’s not the team’s night, so let’s try to change the momentum. And I thought the same frame of mind is coming from me [in terms of sticking with Talbot] for the third period; that’s why I thought it was the right decision to keep Lundqvist away and let him get ready for Game 6.”

Biron, who used to serve as Lundqvist’s backup, knows better than anyone how difficult it is on a goalie to get pulled from the net. A goaltender will check out mentally, and there was no reason for the Rangers to risk injury in this instance.

“Some people don’t understand; they say, ‘He’s their No. 1 goalie, he should be ready to go in whenever you’re asked to.’ But goalies are totally different. You get so mentally focused to play at the start of the game. If they pull you, it’s like the steam comes out of the kettle. You just have to sit and think about the next game, and that’s what he was doing.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, here are Lundqvist's stats in games following a game in which he was pulled:

2013-14 regular season: 3 games, 3 starts, 2-1 record, 3.57 GAA, .879 SV%
Career regular season: 17 games, 17 starts, 12-3-2, 2.41 GAA, .914 SV%

2014 playoffs: 1 game, 1 start, 1-0, 1.00 GAA, .963 SV%
Career playoffs: 3 games, 3 starts, 1-2 record, 3.00 GAA, .887 SV%

Yank of Hank leaves unanswered questions

May, 28, 2014
May 28
MONTREAL -- There will be plenty to mull for the New York Rangers in the next 48 hours before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. A wild, wide-open 7-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 left plenty of questions to be answered.

How did the team’s notoriously stingy structure simply disappear? How does this loss change the complexion of the series? Can the Rangers still close out the Habs?

But one question that will be turned over and scrutinized and nitpicked by many in the wake of the team’s disheartening defeat will be the one coach Alain Vigneault made with his team trailing by a goal, 5-4, heading into the third period.


Should Henrik Lundqvist have started the third period of the Rangers' Game 5 loss?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,544)

Vigneault pulled Henrik Lundqvist midway through the second period, a move no one will second-guess after the Rangers goaltender surrendered four goals on the first 18 shots he faced. But with replacement Cam Talbot in net, the Rangers rallied back from a 4-1 deficit, tying the game before Rene Bourque scored his second goal of the night to give Montreal a 5-4 edge heading into intermission.

Many wondered: With the game now within reach, will he go back to his star?

He did not.

After the game, he said he never even considered the possibility.

All he offered on the decision was a simple “no.”

In his defense, Lundqvist never quite appeared dialed in Tuesday night. With the Rangers becoming unhinged in the second period, Vigneault yanked the usually steady Swede at 8:58 of the frame in an effort to spark a change with his struggling club.

And it worked, temporarily.

“I pulled him because I thought we needed a little momentum shift and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Vigneault said after the game. “It did, for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”

In relief, Talbot surrendered two goals on eight shots, both to Bourque, who led the Habs to victory with a hat trick. It wasn’t Talbot’s fault, nor Lundqvist’s really. Nothing could truly explain to the way the Rangers essentially abandoned their stingy playing style and instead opted to go run-and-gun with skilled, speedy Habs.

“The game just got out of whack, both ways,” veteran Brad Richards said.

But, people will wonder. Oh yes, people will scrutinize that decision and say, "What if Lundqvist had played? Would the outcome have been different?"

From the sounds of it, however, Lundqvist did not fight Vigneault’s decision and angle his way back into action for the third period. He seemed to welcome the mental relief.

“It was better to keep Talbot in there -- for me to get a little break there and start thinking about the next one,” said Lundqvist. “Of course, I was hoping for us to get back in the game and get close. But now we’re going home for a Game 6 at home, and it’s going to be exciting and a great challenge for us.”

Lundqvist will have a full two days to shake the nagging memory of that long skate of shame across the Bell Centre ice, a surface that, until this series, has not been historically kind to the former Vezina Trophy winner.

Maybe there are some lingering doubts still about the demons that exist in this building. Bourque even suggested that Lundqvist has been the inferior of the two goaltenders.

“Everybody talks about how he’s a great goalie,” Bourque said, fanning the flames of a series that has already grown quite nasty. “Has he been better than Ticker [Dustin Tokarski] this series? I don’t think so.”

But don’t forget the last time he got pulled in the playoffs, either. He got the hook back in the team’s first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 and responded just fine. He came back in Game 7 to make 26 saves on 27 shots, leading the Rangers on to the next round.

There will be no doubt that Lundqvist will be back between the pipes when the Rangers return to New York to host the Habs in Game 6, with a chance to close out the series again, this time at home. Vigneault confirmed Lundqvist is not injured.

Though Talbot has proven himself to be a more-than-capable backup, Lundqvist has played like a world-beater this spring. He gives this Rangers team the best chance to win.

Maybe Vigneault didn’t think so Tuesday night, but with a stinging loss to decipher, that will remain a topic up for debate.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Wild

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
At a glance: Coming off one of their worst lack-of-effort losses of the season, the New York Rangers aim to get back on track against the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota Thursday night. With only 16 games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division, though they are only one point ahead of the third-place Columbus Blue Jackets, who have won two straight and host the San Jose Sharks Thursday night. The Wild still do not have a firm grasp on a playoff spot either, currently occupying the first wild card position in the West.

Change in net: Henrik Lundqvist will not get the opportunity to tie Mike Richter’s franchise record 301 NHL wins or surpass Eddie Giacomin’s 49 shutouts Thursday night, as coach Alain Vigneault opted to go with backup Cam Talbot in the front end of the Rangers’ back-to-back set. Talbot has been terrific in relief of Lundqvist this season, posting an 11-5-0 record with a 1.75 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Talbot faced Minnesota previously this season, making 24 saves in the Rangers’ 4-1 win.

Dreadful effort: Vigneault was understandably displeased with what he saw from his team Tuesday at the Carolina Hurricanes, an uninspired performance that saw the Rangers dominated by an inferior squad that showed both more heart and passion in winning puck battles all night. It should be interesting to see how the Rangers respond after such an embarrassing effort, especially considering they can’t afford to be surrendering such critical points at this time of year.

Still searching: Since the shocking trade that brought veteran forward Martin St. Louis to New York last week, the defending Art Ross Trophy winner has yet to score his first goal as a Ranger. The 38-year-old St. Louis might get a different look on a new line, however. Vigneault hinted at switching things up Thursday, so keep a close eye on where St. Louis ends up skating.

Similar struggles: The Wild are not without their woes, either. Minnesota has dropped two straight in overtime/shootout, the most recent of which was Tuesday’s dispiriting loss to the Edmonton Oilers in which the Wild blew a 3-0 first-period lead before falling 4-3 in the shootout.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Blackhawks 1

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
NEW YORK -- Fresh off a gold-medal performance during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, winger Rick Nash put the finishing touches on the New York Rangers’ 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Backup goaltender Cam Talbot helped lead the way as well, holding a ragged Hawks squad scoreless until the waning moments of the game. Peter Regin spoiled what would have been Talbot’s third shutout of the season with a goal with 11.6 seconds remaining. Regardless, the MSG crowd was chanting his name during the third period in recognition of a stellar performance for the 26-year-old, who provided starter Henrik Lundqvist some rest and relief after a busy Olympic tournament.

The Rangers have two games remaining until the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday, one of which comes against their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, on Saturday.

Farewell act? Both captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi played in what could be their last game at Madison Square Garden. Both players, who are set to become unrestricted free agents in July, have yet to come to an agreement on their respective contract extensions with the club and could be moved in advance of the NHL’s deadline March 5.

Miller Time: Recalled from the American Hockey League on Tuesday, J.T. Miller made an immediate impression in the first period with an energetic few shifts. His effort to cause a Jonathan Toews’ turnover led to the Rangers’ first goal midway through the frame, as Benoit Pouliot connected with Derick Brassard, who buried his own rebound for a 1-0 lead at 10:14. Miller, summoned from the minors in wake of the injury to leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, earned a call-up with a strong showing in the AHL of late. Associate coach Scott Arniel and Jeff Gorton reported back to coach Alain Vigneault that the 20-year-old forward was “the best player on the ice” during a recent scouting trip.

Familiar foes: Making up two-thirds of what was a pretty astonishing “fourth line” for the Canadians during the Olympic Games, Nash and Patrick Sharp squared off against each other for the first time since winning gold together last weekend. With 10 returning Olympians versus seven for the Rangers (six considering Zuccarello did not play), the Hawks seemed to be suffering from a worse case of fatigue following the break. The defending champs, which boasts fellow gold medalists Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, looked disjointed and out of sorts through the first 40 minutes of play.

Back in blue: Though Marc Staal has been battling back spasms and was a game-time decision Thursday night, the 27-year-old played against the Hawks with no apparent problems. Injured forward Derek Dorsett, who has been sidelined for almost two months with a broken leg, will be ready to return to the lineup on Saturday.

Rangers' deflection leads to dejection

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers had a chance to do what they had not done yet this season -- string together five straight wins -- but instead they squandered the opportunity with a 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Riding a four-game winning streak and looking to bank an extra pair of points heading into the Olympic break, the Rangers dropped the ball in the first period with a stretch of sloppy play.

Still, it was a winnable game against an Edmonton team that entered as winners in four of their last five games, and the Rangers let at least a point slip away with a series of miscues that led to the Oilers’ deciding goal in the final minutes of play.

With 1:38 remaining in regulation, former first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov had both the time and space to fire from the slot -- a sizzling shot that beat backup netminder Cam Talbot on a deflection off a Rangers player's stick.

"Five puck battles. We lost 'em all and it ended up in the back of our net," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who was clearly disappointed about the result.

Talbot, making his first start since Jan. 21, was clearly not too pleased about the coverage breakdown, either.

"As a team, we gotta, with a minute-and-a-half left, we have to have the coverage in our end and know when their top line is out there," said Talbot, who was saddled with his second straight loss. "We can't leave a guy alone in the slot like that."

And how did he feel about his own performance?

"As far as my play, I felt I played pretty well and gave us a chance to win until the end there. It took a deflection off [Chris Kreider's] stick to beat us. We probably deserved a point or two tonight," said Talbot, who finished with 29 saves.

It's worth pointing out, however, that the Oilers probably should have taken a 2-1 lead earlier in the game on what would've been a power-play marker at 10:57 of the second period that was nullified when a quick whistle blew the play dead before the puck crossed the line.

It was the only power play of the game during a rare night in which the officials left quite a few calls on the ice. There was a blatant tripping call on Yakupov that went unnoticed in the first period, and an ugly elbow on Zuccarello later in the game that was also either missed or ignored.

After the game, players admitted the officials let a lot go, though it went both ways. The sense was that both teams got away with a few Thursday night.

"There definitely could have been penalties called," said veteran center Brad Richards. "I'm not blaming the refs, but there definitely could have been penalties called."

Derick Brassard was the lone goal scorer for the Rangers, tying the score early in the second period with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle to snap netminder Ben Scrivens' shutout streak at Madison Square Garden this season at 80 minutes 22 seconds.

The Rangers must now regroup for one more game before they disband for the Olympic break, and they have a tough test before them in the Eastern-conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

Sochi-bound Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins have won eight of their last 11 to stretch their lead on the Rangers to 17 points within the Metropolitan Division.

"It's a big game. They are a good team and we have to move by this and learn from it," said Marc Staal. "We have to be better tomorrow and try to get the win."

Rapid Reaction: Oilers 2, Rangers 1

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
NEW YORK -- Edmonton's Nail Yakupov snapped a 1-1 tie with just 1:38 left in regulation to end the Rangers' four-game winning streak and give the Oilers a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.

The former first overall pick fired from the high slot and beat backup netminder Cam Talbot for the game-winner as the Oilers recorded their fifth win in the last six games.

The Rangers have a tough test ahead before they wrap up for the Olympic break, facing the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday.

No goal: The Oilers can't be happy about what would've been a go-ahead power-play goal that was nullified with a quick whistle at 10:57 of the second period. According to the NHL's situation room, the play was not reviewable because the official blew his whistle to stop play before the puck crossed the goal line.

Shutout streak snapped: Oilers netminder Ben Scrivens had his shutout streak at Madison Square Garden this season snapped at 80 minutes 22 seconds after Derick Brassard notched the equalizer on a one-timer from the right circle 22 seconds into play. Scrivens blanked the Rangers 1-0 earlier this season while still playing for the Kings in November.

Quick start: The Oilers jumped out to a quick lead with Ryan Smyth's goal just 2:56 into play. After Brian Boyle lost the puck in the Rangers' zone, David Perron ripped a shot high off Talbot, who lost track of the puck as Smyth swooped in to bang it home.

Clock is ticking: With less than a day until the Olympic roster freeze goes into effect, it does not appear the Ryan Callahan situation will have any resolution before the 28-year-old winger heads off to Sochi. Multiple sources told Thursday evening that the situation was status quo and that nothing appeared imminent. Further evidence to that end? Callahan was not held out of the lineup, a precautionary move teams opt to make to protect their asset when a deal is close.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Isles

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
At a glance: Old, bitter rivals face off at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when the New York Rangers host the New York Islanders in the clubs' first of three meetings in an 11-day span.

The divisional clash features two teams on the upswing. The 27-21-3 Rangers have won three straight to climb into second place in the Metropolitan Division standings. And though the Islanders remain mired in last place in the division, they have won seven of their last 10 games and sit just five points out of a playoff position.

Big news: In a surprising development Tuesday morning, it was revealed that Henrik Lundqvist will miss the game with an illness. Backup netminder Cam Talbot, who has been terrific in relief for the Rangers this season, will start in goal for the Blueshirts. 30-year-old journeyman nemtinder David LeNeveu will back up Talbot Tuesday night, his first NHL appearance since the 2010-11 season when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. LeNeveu was released from his minor-league contract with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack Tuesday, then subsequently signed to a two-way NHL deal.

Still fighting: The Islanders have not given up hope on climbing back into the playoff picture, and given the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference, an ascent in the standings is not implausible. The team recently recorded four wins on a six-game road trip and has a lengthy stay at home from now until the Olympic break, a span in which it will play eight of nine games in the New York area. The Islanders have also been getting clutch contributions from their top performers in John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Both players rank in the top 15 in the league in scoring, with Tavares second (59 points) and Okposo tied for 11th (49 points). Both players notched power-play goals and tallied in the shootout in Monday's 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Special-teams matchup: Keep an eye on the Rangers' seventh-ranked power play, which has recorded a goal in seven of the past eight games. The much-improved unit will face a struggling Islanders penalty-killing group that ranks last in the league with a 76.0 percent success rate.

Watch out: Two players to watch in Tuesday's action: Rangers winger Rick Nash is on a tear with seven goals in the past eight games. Meanwhile, Islanders rookie defenseman Calvin de Haan has recorded eight points in his last eight games.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sens

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
At a glance: The Rangers recently capped a four-game homestand at Madison Square Garden with a thrilling 1-0 shutout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. The 25-21-3 Blueshirts travel to Ottawa for the only road game in an eight-game stretch at home leading up to their Stadium Series set beginning next weekend. Though the Rangers have been road warriors this season -- they are tied for the Eastern Conference lead with 14 road wins -- they face a desperate Ottawa Sens squad that is fighting to get back into the playoff picture. The Rangers enter Saturday’s matinee in sixth place, third in the Metropolitan Division while the Sens are two points back in ninth place, fifth in the Atlantic.

Talbot in net: Though starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is on a roll after recording his third shutout of the season with Thursday night’s 38-save effort against Detroit, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is giving backup goaltender Cam Talbot the nod in net for the first game of a back-to-back set this weekend. Luckily for the Blueshirts, there has not been any dropoff in goal when Talbot has stepped in to give Lundqvist a rest. The 26-year-old Talbot has put together an impressive season of his own, posting a 9-3-0 record with a 1.66 goals against average and .938 save percentage.

Got their number: The Sens have won five straight regular-season games against the Rangers, though this is the first meeting of the two clubs this season. Winners in seven of their past 10 games, the Sens have also registered a point in each of their past eight games. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, who will play with Lundqvist and Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on Sweden’s Olympic team in Sochi, Russia, next month, is on a tear of late. The former Norris Trophy winner has five points in the past two games and seven assists in the past five. Craig Anderson is expected to get the start between the pipes for Ottawa, and the Park Ridge, Illinois, native is having a tough year. He is 15-9-6 this season with a 3.16 goals against average and a .903 save percentage, though he has strong career numbers against the Rangers (7-3-0, 1.76 GAA, .944 save percentage).

Rangers overcome controversial goal call

December, 23, 2013
NEW YORK -- Even though the New York Rangers regrouped to earn a 2-1 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, players were still buzzing about a call in the locker room after the game.

Anton Stralman was describing the scene to fellow defenseman Justin Falk. Goaltender Cam Talbot still seemed perplexed when recalling the sequence to a group of reporters. Coach Alain Vigneault was frank in revealing what he thought of the call to uphold Nazem Kadri's game-tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

[+] EnlargeCam Talbot
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesCam Talbot celebrates after the Rangers' win.
"In my opinion, it was the wrong call," he said.

After killing off a late-game penalty to preserve a 1-0 lead in the third period, the Rangers saw that lead disappear as Kadri followed up on teammate David Clarkson's pair of whacks at the right post. While players appeared to think the play was dead, Kadri kept at it and pushed the puck through with 1:24 left on the clock.

Whether the puck crossed the line was not debatable. The video review was initiated to review whether or not the puck crossed the line legally. Because Kadri jammed the puck through, rather than drive Talbot's pad over the line, the call was upheld. The official never blew his whistle. The Rangers clearly felt he should have.

"I didn’t hear a whistle,, no, but I was expecting one because I thought I had it covered," said Talbot, whose shutout bid was subsequently spoiled. "Obviously, the ref didn’t lose sight of the puck. I thought that he would have, but that’s his call, and they went upstairs and reviewed it and the call stood."

Talbot, usually pretty calm as far as goaltenders go, was banging his stick on the crossbar trying to get the official’s attention and gesturing in protest. Brian Boyle, who was on the ice for the play, also smacked his stick in frustration.

"You call a goal on the ice, it’s hard for them to take that back," Stralman said. "It’s a tough call."

The NHL’s official explanation left something to be desired, and Vigneault’s explanation that he received secondhand via alternate captain Brad Richards didn’t do much to provide clarity.

In the end, the issue was moot as the Rangers recovered to knock off the Leafs in a shootout to close out a nine-game homestand with back-to-back wins.

If Talbot was rattled by the controversy, he didn’t show it, stopping Kadri in the third round of the shootout to seal the win. The 26-year-old backup, awarded his second straight start over franchise netminder Henrik Lundqvist, improved to 8-2-0 on the season.

"I would have been pretty devastated, especially with the game we played tonight," Talbot said. "We deserved to win the game, and to get a goal like that against us could have really hurt us. But we kind of let it go, pushed forward and got the eventual game winner.

"It didn’t really hurt us in the end, but we did a good job of staying focused and pushing forward."

W2W4: Rangers vs. Leafs

December, 23, 2013
At a glance: Fresh off Sunday night’s morale-boosting 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers aim to make it two in a row against Toronto Monday night to end an otherwise dreadful nine-game homestand on a positive note.

Coach Alain Vigneault appears to be opting for the same lineup in back-to-back nights, which means backup goaltender Cam Talbot will once again get the nod in net over regular starter Henrik Lundqvist. The Maple Leafs enter Monday’s match at Madison Square Garden losers in three of the past four games, a tailspin that has been captured by HBO’s all-access (well, sort of) “24/7” cameras detailing the team’s every move leading up to the 2014 Winter Classic.

Riding the hot hand: For the second time this season, Vigneault has chosen to award Talbot with consecutive starts over the incumbent Lundqvist. Though Lundqvist’s place in the organizational hierarchy was confirmed earlier this month when he was given a seven-year $59.5 million contract extension, Talbot has played better when given the chance. The 26-year-old netminder, who stopped 24 of 25 shots Sunday night, is 7-2-0 on the season with a 1.67 goals against average and .936 save percentage. Meanwhile, Lundqvist’s play has continued to slip during a dreadful home-stand. Prior to Sunday’s match, the Rangers had surrendered four goals or more in six of their last seven games, with Lundqvist the starting goaltender in each one. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner is 10-15-2 with a 2.77 GAA and .906 save percentage.

Facing Phil: Leafs forward Phil Kessel, who leads his team with 17 goals and 33 points, has been held to only one assist in the last four games and but he may break out against the Blueshirts. Kessel has seven goals and 15 points in 24 games against the Rangers.

Prying eyes: Though HBO is normally granted unmitigated access to the two teams featured in its “24/7” series, both the Leafs and Red Wings appear to have their reservations. In the most recent episode, Detroit’s Mike Babcock kicked a camera crew out of the Red Wings’ locker room following a bitter loss to the lowly Florida Panthers, and Leafs Randy Carlyle didn’t seem very welcoming of the extra attention, either. Though cameras were not allowed inside the Leafs’ room for a recent loss, Carlyle was still caught unleashing an expletive-laden tirade at his team.

Will Cam get another chance Monday?

December, 22, 2013
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault knows who will be between the pipes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

But he’s not sharing the secret.

Vigneault was asked whether he’d consider returning to 26-year-old backup goaltender Cam Talbot on Monday night following Sunday night’s 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, but he wouldn’t divulge the answer.

“I know exactly who I’m playing. I just haven’t told my goaltenders,” Vigneault said.

In his first start since Dec. 2, Talbot was again a steady presence in net for the Blueshirts, turning away 24 of 25 shots faced from the Wild. Picking up his seventh win of the season, Talbot improved to 7-2-0 overall. Starter Henrik Lundqvist backed up after making a season-high eight consecutive starts.

“He came in here tonight and did what we expect of our goalies and gave us a chance to win,” Vigneault said.

A lot has changed since Vigneault was last confronted with this scenario -- namely, Lundqvist was awarded a seven-year contract extension worth $59.5 million -- but the team has irrefutably been much better in front of Talbot than Lundqvist.

Lundqvist’s game has regressed, a development that has contributed to the team’s abysmal performance during this nine-game homestand.

Prior to Sunday’s match, the Rangers had surrendered four goals or more in six of the previous seven games. Lundqvist is 10-15-2 this season with some rather underwhelming and uncharacteristic numbers for the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner: a 2.77 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Meanwhile, Talbot boasts a GAA of 1.74 and a save percentage of .934.

“Obviously, Hank is the proven No. 1 [goaltender] and he’s going to get the bulk of the games,” Talbot said after Sunday's game. “He’s shown that over the bulk of his career. I knew that coming in; my role is to play once every couple of weeks, and obviously I’m fine with that. I just stay focused and stay ready whenever I get the call.”

W2W4: Rangers vs. Wild

December, 22, 2013
At a glance: Not even a win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday could salvage what has become an atrocious nine-game homestand at Madison Square Garden for the Blueshirts, but they'll aim to knock their Western Conference foes in hopes of turning things in the right direction.

The Rangers enter Sunday's match with only one (shootout) win through the first seven games of their long stretch at MSG. They've whittled down two-goal deficits in three straight games but have only three points to show for it. Luckily for New York, Minnesota has dropped six of their last seven road games. The Wild are currently without starting goaltender Josh Harding, who was placed on injured reserve this week to deal with complications with his battle with multiple sclerosis. Harding had been outstanding for the Wild all season, posting an 18-5-3 record and a league-leading 1.51 goals-against average.

Change in net: After making his season-high eighth consecutive start in goal Friday night against the Islanders -- a 5-3 loss in which he surrendered four goals on 19 shots -- Henrik Lundqvist will have the night off on Sunday. The Rangers named backup netminder Cam Talbot the starter against the Wild. With back-to-back games -- the Rangers finish up their homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday -- it is expected that Lundqvist will get the next start.

Staal resumes skating: Injured defenseman Marc Staal skated for the first time on Saturday since sustaining a concussion in the Rangers' 4-3 OT loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 7. Staal skated on his own on Saturday and Sunday, though there remains no timetable for his return. The recent development is nonetheless a positive one by Staal, who has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons. He played only 21 games last season because of a harrowing eye injury and missed 36 games the season prior with a concussion.

Familiar foe: When Zach Parise was set to hit the open market as a free agent, he didn't hide his contempt for the Devils' division rivals. Asked if he'd ever consider joining the Blueshirts -- and yes, there was that interest on Broadway -- he gave an unequivocal "no." Suffice it to say, there won't be any love lost when Parise comes back to the Big Apple with his hometown Minnesota Wild. The star forward has only one point in the last five games.

Can't blame Talbot for Blueshirts blunders

December, 2, 2013
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault declined to announce Thursday's starting goaltender, though it did not carry nearly the same subtext as when he did the same this past weekend.

Had Cam Talbot delivered a 35-save shutout against the Jets, things might have felt different, but it is almost impossible to imagine that Vigneault will not return to regular starter Henrik Lundqvist for Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

[+] EnlargeCam Talbot
AP Photo/Kathy WillensCam Talbot surrendered four goals in the team's loss on Monday.
That isn't to say that Talbot won't continue to push Lundqvist -- his steadiness and poise between the pipes has been more than just a pleasant surprise for the Rangers -- or that he played terribly in the team's 5-2 loss Monday night -- really, the team was altogether shoddy in front of him -- but we can probably put to bed any thoughts of a full-fledged goalie controversy for the time being.

Awarded his second straight start ahead of Lundqvist, Talbot surrendered four goals in the team's demoralizing defeat Monday -- the first time in his eight NHL starts he gave up more than two goals.

He was not to blame for the team's uninspired effort, but he didn't stand on his head, either.

"I felt alright, but still not where I wanted to be tonight," he said. "I can't expect the guys to go out there and score five goals for me every night, so I've got to do a better job of eliminating their opportunities and just do a better job of clearing them."

Vigneault was lukewarm when asked about Talbot's performance, but made it clear he was not the sole culprit.

"Obviously, he didn't make the same amount of saves as he has done in the past," Vigneault said, "but we certainly made his life challenging tonight by the way we played in front of him."

Poor play costs Rangers points against Jets

December, 2, 2013
NEW YORK -- For as hard as the Rangers fought to shed an awful 3-7-0 start to the season and climb back to .500, they haven't done much to move beyond that since.

A middling Blueshirts squad has a record (14-14-0) befitting its play as the Rangers dropped Monday's match against the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.

"Is this a .500 hockey club right now?" coach Alain Vigneault asked rhetorically after the game. "We're certainly playing like one right now."

Sloppy play, poor execution and an overall lack of urgency were the culprits as the Rangers let another two points slip past. The team remains in eighth place, perhaps only by virtue of the fact that the entire Eastern Conference is suffering from a widespread case of mediocrity. The Rangers have flip-flopped with wins and losses the past six games and have only one winning streak of more than two games this season.

With a jam-packed December ahead and nine games at home, the Rangers must do better if they want to hold some of the other challenging teams in the East at bay.

".500 hockey's not gonna cut it," goaltender Cam Talbot said of the message inside the team's dressing room after the game. "We've got to be better or we're going to be on the outside looking in."

Talbot surrendered four goals, two to ex-Ranger Olli Jokinen, though he could hardly be saddled with the loss. The Rangers, who have played so well in front of him lately, did not Monday night. It was the first time in his eight NHL starts that he gave up more than two goals.

This after Talbot was awarded his second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist, fanning the flames of a potential goalie controversy.

"We certainly made his life more challenging tonight with the way we played in front of him," Vigneault said.

The Rangers were just plain lucky to escape a horrid second period with the score tied 2-2. Derick Brassard made a boneheaded pass that led to the Jets' second goal of the night -- a play that earned him a demotion to the fourth line -- and the team played with little gumption the entire frame.

Instead of regrouping in the third and correcting the mistakes, the Rangers did little to improve the situation in the third.

"It's unacceptable," alternate captain Marc Staal said, "and it's something we have to correct in a hurry."

Vigneault would not reveal his goaltender for Thursday, though it seems inconceivable that he will not return to Lundqvist against Buffalo. To gain some ground in the standings, the Rangers desperately need to pick up two points against the last-place Sabres before they return for a nine-game homestand.

Stringing wins together is a must for the Rangers, especially considering the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are within two points of them in the laughably weak Metropolitan Division.

Trading off wins and losses is not good enough.

"Good teams don't hover around .500 all season," said Rick Nash, who was held off the score sheet for the first time in four games. "They put winning streaks together and we can't find that streak right now. We need to do a better job. We'll figure it out."