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Biron start breaks Lundqvist streak of facing Devils

by Dave Lozo
NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in more than five years, Henrik Lundqvist won't be in net for the New York Rangers against the New Jersey Devils.

Backup Martin Biron will get the start for the Rangers against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur on Tuesday night at Prudential Center, snapping a string of 32 consecutive starts by Lundqvist against their cross-river rivals that dates to Dec. 17, 2006. Lundqvist participated in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game this past weekend in Ottawa.

"I thought about it yesterday when (coach John Tortorella) told me I wasn't playing today," said Lundqvist, who is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.937). "It's been a while since I watched a game against this team. It'll be different."

Biron was scheduled to start the Rangers' final game before the break last Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, but he became ill following the team's morning practice and had to give way to Lundqvist.

With the Rangers playing Wednesday night in Buffalo, it made sense to let Biron get a start after the long layoff.

"You come back and have a back-to-back after the All-Star break, you kind of have an idea you're going to get one of the two, but I didn't know which one," Biron said. "I didn't care which one. I just wanted to get myself ready as soon as I got back. I was disappointed not being able to get a game before the break. Stuff like that happens. The very next day, you start feeling better, your mind is looking forward to the next game. The break was great, but you want to get going and play some games."

Biron has been the busiest backup the Rangers have had since Lundqvist became the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender in 2006-07. In 12 games (11 starts), Biron is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Lundqvist has owned the Devils during his career. He is 23-9-5 with a 1.82 GAA and .937 save percentage, but Tortorella had his mind made up long before Tuesday.

"I made this decision before the All-Star break," Tortorella said. "I wanted to make sure (Lundqvist) got two practices under his belt. I thought he was only going to take one, because I didn't think he was going to skate yesterday, but he wanted to. We talked about this prior to the All-Star break that we were going to go this way."

Lundqvist said he arrived at practice Monday because he assumed he'd be facing the Devils on Tuesday, but he understands the importance of getting an extra day of rest as the Rangers head down the homestretch.

"I'm so used to playing against this team that I thought I was playing," Lundqvist admitted. "I think it's good for me to get an extra day. I could feel yesterday that it's been a lot of hockey and talk about hockey this weekend. Just to sit on the bench today and relax a little bit is going to help me prepare for tomorrow."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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