PITTSBURGH -- Martin Biron will play his 21st game of the season in net for the New York Rangers on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. It's probably more than he expected play as Henrik Lundqvist's backup, but not as much as he would like to play.
Backup goalies never have it easy, as Biron can attest. They often play when the starter is slumping, is hurt or needs a rest, sometimes under the worst of conditions -- the second night of a back-to-back -- or against the best of opponents.
Still, Biron has a 12-5-2 record and a 2.38 goals-against average -- the kind of numbers that would have earned him significantly more playing time on a team other than one that is contending to win the Presidents' Trophy. Biron played in 17 games last season, going 8-6-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average.
For a coach, there's nothing like the security of a reliable backup goalie. That's exactly what Biron provides to the Rangers, who have locked up first place in the Eastern Conference and the top seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I think the year went really good for everybody. We struck to the schedule and stuck to the plan and for me, Hank, it's worked out well," Biron said Thursday. "I was happy the way it went. You want to play more, you just want to get it. But you're patient and you practice and when you get that opportunity, you have to respond. We've been able to do that, nut just me but everybody else."
Lundqvist (39-17-5, 1.93 goals-against average) injured his right hand as the Rangers beat the Flyers 5-3 on Tuesday, but he was able to handle the stick without considerable discomfort during the morning skate.
Coach John Tortorella expects him to be fine, and there is a possibility Lundqvist could play in the final regular season game against the Washington Capitals on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers won seven of nine to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and Biron likes how they are playing as the playoffs approach.
"Some teams finish really strong, some teams don't," Biron said. "It's a matter of timing and being mentally prepared and being ready for anything. If you have to make adjustments, you make adjustments. There's no secret recipe, you've got to go with what you have. Right now we've been playing well, so we've got to go with that."
Perhaps that's why Tortorella plans to stay with his regular lineup against the Penguins, who lead the season series 3-2.
Forward Mike Rupp showed no signs of a concussion following a fight Tuesday with Jody Shelley and is expected to play.
The Rangers' likely lineup:
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman