New Jersey Devils.There's a goalie in the Eastern Conference who has already established a League record, and he doesn't play for the
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist happens to be that masked man who became the first in NHL history to win 30 games in each of his first four seasons following a victory over Nashville Thursday.
"I definitely want to go there and keep going," Lundqvist said. "This is a big weekend for us and we really have to get ready for some big games. For me, personally, I've always felt comfortable in New York because I've always had great support in the locker room."
Lundqvist, 30-20-9 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage, also became only the second goalie in franchise history to win 30 in any four consecutive seasons, matching a streak by Hall of Famer Ed Giacomin (1966-70).
For a team ranked last in the League in goals per game (2.36), one could point to Lundqvist as the primary reason the Rangers remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race with 78 points. Come to think of it, the 2008-09 season might be Lundqvist's most impressive.
"I think he's been a rock back there since he's taken the job and has done great things for the organization," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "We're all thrilled to have him as our goalie."
The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist credits preparation for his success.
"I think I came into the League pretty well prepared," he said. "I played as a pro for five years in Sweden and my last year (2004-05) was the first time when I really thought about coming over and playing here. We had the lockout, so I stayed in Sweden and got to play against really good players, and even goaltenders. Miikka Kiprusoff was there, (Jose) Theodore was there, (Marty) Turco was there, (Martin) Gerber, (Manny) Fernandez. We had a lot of good goalies that year. When I came over here, knowing that I could play against them helped a lot."
In 252 NHL games, Lundqvist has 134 victories, sixth-most in club history, behind Mike Richter (301), Giacomin (266), Gump Worsley (204), John Vanbiesbrouck (200) and Dave Kerr (157).
The Rangers' went into Thursday's game ninth in the conference, but the win vaulted them into seventh. They'll look to gain some ground in the standings this weekend with a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Flyers, which ends Sunday when they host the NHL on NBC Game of the Week (12:30 p.m. ET). Lundqvist, whose streak of 13 straight starts ended Monday when the flu kept him out of a 3-0 loss to Carolina, is optimistic he'll be ready to go Sunday.
"I feel better each day," he said. "I still feel a little weird when I try and eat and I don't know exactly what it is, but I've been taking medication for it so I hope I'll be ready."
The Rangers are 8-2-2 in their last 12 meetings against Philadelphia, currently fourth in the conference, but they dropped a 5-2 decision in the last meeting at Madison Square Garden, on Feb. 15.
Despite the pressures that come with playing in New York, the man nicknamed "The King" doesn't mind being one of the area's prominent sports figures.
"You can live a pretty low-key life here, but I love the city," Lundqvist said. "There's so much stuff to do. You have the craziness and the intensity around the games on the big stage in New York, but then you take a cab a couple of blocks away and they don't even know there's been a game. I love that part of the city. I can live a pretty normal life. Obviously I can tell the difference between now and two years ago. People start to recognize, but it's still pretty comfortable."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.