Friday, March 18, 2011
Updated: March 19, 11:47 AM ET
Henrik Lundqvist downplays stiff neck
By Matt Ehalt
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a stiff neck and is not sure if he will be able to play Sunday against Pittsburgh following a collision during the third period of the Rangers' 6-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. He said that there is "nothing serious" and all the tests came up fine.
"It depends on whether [the neck] is stiff or not," Lundqvist said after the game. "I will probably skate tomorrow. My goal is to be ready for Sunday. We will see if I can play or not."
With the Rangers leading 5-3 in the final minutes of the third period, Montreal's Benoit Pouliot raced toward the goal trying to score. With all his momentum directed toward the net, he crashed right into Lundqvist, snapping back the Rangers goalie neck and knocking Lundqvist to the ground. Pouliot was penalized for goalie interference.
The Rangers training staff rushed out to check on Lundqvist, who said he never blacked out or lost consciousness. Eventually, Lundqvist worked his way to his feet and stayed out on the ice for the final 3:21 of the game.
He said after the game that he did not suffer a concussion.
Lundqvist said his neck started hurting during the final minutes, but there was little time left and he didn't want to leave the ice. Lundqvist won his 30th game of the season Friday, extending his NHL record to six straight 30-win seasons to start a career.
"The tough part here is I didn't really see him coming," Lundqvist said. "I couldn't get ready for it and my head was learning forward and the neck took a pretty hard hit. We checked everything and it looks good."
In determining whether he can play Sunday, he said the biggest factor will be how much he is able to move his head.
"The only thing we will be to check how I can move and how much it hurts," Lundqvist said. "Hopefully I wake up tomorrow with no pain."
Rangers coach John Tortorella did not have any qualms with the play.
"It certainly wasn't intentional, it was a hockey play," Tortorella said. "I think that's hockey. We try to take care of the blue, we try to get to their blue, and when there's contact I think that's part of the game. We certainly don't want to lose our goalie or get hurt but I'm not going to sit up here and whine about that stuff. I think that's a big part of hockey, trying to make plays there. We try to do it. You just play and see where it goes."
If Lundqvist cannot go Sunday, Chad Johnson would make his season debut for the Rangers. Johnson spent the majority of the season with AHL Connecticut before being promoted March 2 after backup Martin Biron suffered a fractured collarbone on Feb. 28.
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.