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Rangers' Lundqvist hopes to play in Game 2

New York goaltender game-time decision against Pittsburgh on Saturday

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Lundqvist shaken up, later exits

NYR@PIT, Gm1: Lundqvist shaken up in 1st, later exits

R1, Gm1: Henrik Lundqvist goes down to the ice after being struck by a stick in the 1st, forcing his exit prior to the start of the 2nd period

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PITTSBURGH -- The positive sign for the New York Rangers is goalie Henrik Lundqvist practiced with no vision problems Friday. Now the Rangers have to wait to make sure his injured right eye is 100 percent before deciding if he will start Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lundqvist has started 111 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Rangers.

Pittsburgh has a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. They beat the Rangers 5-2 in Game 1.

"[Lundqvist] was cleared to practice [Friday]; his situation is game-time decision [Saturday]," Vigneault said. "Everybody wants to see how he's going to react to the strain of the practice, and he'll be a game-time call."

Lundqvist, whose right eye is swollen slightly and black around the edges, said he felt good throughout practice and was pleased with how it went. He said his visit with an ocular specialist Thursday revealed no damage to his eye.

"It's more the swelling around the eye that makes it uncomfortable," Lundqvist said. "We're taking it day by day here. But the practice was good, the vision was good."

Lundqvist was injured when the stick blade of defenseman Marc Staal penetrated his facemask and hit him near his right eye with 48.2 seconds remaining in the first period of Game 1 Wednesday.

Lundqvist played the remainder of the first period, allowed a goal to Patric Hornqvist, and was replaced by Antti Raanta for the start of the second period. Raanta, who made 16 saves in the 5-2 loss, will start Saturday if Lundqvist is unable to play. Magnus Hellberg was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League to be the backup if Lundqvist is unavailable.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist jams puck home for the lead

"It's a lot better," Lundqvist said. "After the hit it was very blurry and it was hard to focus, and that's why I left the game. That night it improved a lot so I had a good feeling [Thursday]. But obviously you want to go and make sure when you see the specialist that there is no damage to the eye. The way the stick hit me, I'm just very happy. I feel lucky that nothing bad happened because for probably 20 to 30 seconds there I had some really bad thoughts going through my head, just the way it all happened. It was very scary, actually."

Lundqvist said he was in a lot of pain and went numb.

"Before you open your eyes you don't really know what the reaction will be and that was the scary part for 20 or 30 seconds, not knowing," he said. "I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure. But then you open your eyes and slowly things start to feel a little bit more normal."

Lundqvist said it was his decision to stay in the game for the remainder of the first period. He didn't want to put Raanta in the difficult position of having to come in cold late in the period, and he said the treatment he received from trainer Jim Ramsay, including eye drops, allowed his condition to improve quickly.

Lundqvist said he didn't think the goal Hornqvist scored, a shot through his five-hole from the slot, was stoppable even if his eye was 100 percent.

"It was a tough play, but obviously it was a shocking couple minutes there for me," Lundqvist said. "But it's my decision. When I talked to the trainer I felt like it's the right play to stay in the game. I really believed it was. But then going into the second period I thought the best decision for the team especially was to play Antti. That's the important thing here. You can't put yourself ahead of the team. In that moment, a minute to go, I thought it was the best thing to do, stay in the game. I don't know if I would have stopped that [goal] if nothing happened before, but it's easy to sit here and try to find the answers."

Lundqvist said he was trying to prepare to play during the first intermission but said he felt the swelling get worse and was unable to rediscover his focus.

"For a goalie that's pretty much everything," he said. "You have to focus quickly on moving objects. So a few minutes before the second period I tried to get that focus and it was just not good enough to play."

He was good enough to practice Friday. His teammates felt he looked sharp.

"He looked normal," center Derick Brassard said. "It was a normal practice for him."

This is the second strange injury Lundqvist has sustained in the past 15 months; both are related to his mask.

He was injured Jan. 31, 2015, when he was struck in the throat by a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh's stick accidentally lifted Lundqvist's mask, exposing his neck. Lundqvist stayed in the game and played the next game, but later revealed doctors told him he was at risk of having a stroke by continuing to play without letting what he referred to as a strained blood vessel heal.

He wound up missing 25 games.

Lundqvist said he never has had an incident like Wednesday where a stick went through his mask. He also said he doesn't have any concerns about his equipment because of the fluke nature of the injuries.

"I haven't seen many incidents like this over the years," he said. "Accidents happen. Injuries happen. I feel still as a goalie you're pretty well protected, so I don't see it as an issue. Obviously within a year here I've experienced two freak accidents, but I still feel like the equipment is good and there is nothing to really change."

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