NEW YORK -- For the second straight game, the New York Rangers won't be anywhere near full-strength.
Goaltender and Vezina Trophy favorite Henrik Lundqvist said Thursday morning that the flu bug that sidelined him for Tuesday's game is gone, but he's still not recovered to the point where he's ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in an Eastern Conference showdown on Thursday night.
"I was hoping to play tonight, but being off the ice for three days, I had a feeling it might be tough to be game-ready right away," said Lundqvist, who took part in the team's morning practice but won't dress for the game. "There's no health issue. It's just sitting at home doing nothing. Just laying in bed for two days doesn't really help."
Backup Martin Biron will make his second consecutive start after making 27 saves in the Rangers' 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. For the year, the 34-year-old Biron is 12-4-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Chad Johnson was again recalled from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as Biron's backup.
With the Penguins on a nine-game winning streak and now six points back of the Rangers for the top spot in the East, Biron has been thrust into his team's biggest game of the season. He sees it more as big opportunity for the club, not just himself.
"It's big for everybody here to keep going and building our game," Biron said. "I think the last few games have been good games for us in the team game and some individual games too. It's a big stage and a big opportunity for this club to keep going."
The news was equally discouraging on captain Ryan Callahan (foot) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip). Callahan will miss his third straight game and sixth game in the last nine with his injury, while Del Zotto will sit for the fourth consecutive game.
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I'm very excited about what happened today. We've worked on this deal with Toronto for a month, or over a month. It got a little bit of legs on draft day, but it really heated up last night, and we were able to complete the deal today.
— Penguins GM Jim Rutherford on Phil Kessel, who he acquired from the Maple Leafs in a trade on Wednesday