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Lundqvist: 'I'll be ready' for Penguins

Rangers goalie looking to continue playoff dominance against Pittsburgh

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made it through the full team practice Tuesday and said he's ready to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lundqvist was feeling sick Monday and had to leave practice twice, the second time for good.

The Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins open their best-of-seven Eastern Conference First Round series with Game 1 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG, ROOT).

"It was a good practice for me [Tuesday]," Lundqvist said. "I'm probably going to go for a morning skate [Wednesday] as well. Last preparation and then I'm going to start. It's exciting."

Video: NYI@NYR: Lundqvist denies Tavares, Boychuk

Lundqvist is without question the Rangers' most important player. He has started 110 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games for New York, making him one of only three goalies in NHL history to start at least 100 consecutive playoff games with one franchise (Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche).

Lundqvist has been particularly impressive against the Penguins. 

He is 7-1 with a .954 save percentage and 1.34 goals-against average in his past eight playoff starts against Pittsburgh going back to Game 5 of the second-round series in 2014. He is 4-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average and .965 save percentage (111 saves on 115 shots) in his past four playoff games at Consol Energy Center.

Now if only Lundqvist would accept the credit for his recent playoff success against Pittsburgh.

"I think it's a team thing," Lundqvist said. "Going in there, we know it's a great team. The last few years, they've been one of the best teams in the League so it's always a great challenge for all of us. I think the focus needs to be really good on all the details in my game, for our team, puck management. They're fast, they're good, but we know we can beat them. It's going to be a very tough challenge."

Lundqvist says that because he knows the Penguins look different this season than they have going into the past two postseasons. 

"We know they're good," Lundqvist said.

Video: TBL@NYR: Lundqvist denies Bolts with two big stops

For starters, the Penguins went 33-12-5 in their final 50 games, including 14-2-0 while averaging four goals per game in their final 16 games. They didn't have center Evgeni Malkin for those 15 games because of an upper-body injury. He's considered day-to-day.

Sidney Crosby has been his usual elite self with 67 points, including 31 goals, in 51 games since Dec. 18. 

"He's one of the best players in the world and playing at an extremely high level right now," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's a challenge."

Pittsburgh is also faster than it was last season, particularly with right wing Phil Kessel and left wing Carl Hagelin, a former member of the Rangers, playing on the same line between center Nick Bonino.

"They're playing a faster paced game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Any time you watch them, they have five guys in the picture all the time. Except, when their 'D' has the puck with no pressure, you see them fly out [of the zone]."

Vigneault and several players were gushing over Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang's play this season and identified him as the Penguins' key. Letang had 53 points, including 38 assists, in his last 47 games of the season. He finished with 51 assists and 67 points.

"In my mind, he's had one of those seasons that put him with the elite defensemen in the League," Vigneault said. "Not only do you see the great offensive potential and jumping up in the rush and getting that shot through, but he also defends real well. You can't intimidate a guy like him."

But the Rangers have Lundqvist, which they feel puts them at an advantage. They feel even better about it now after watching him get through the full practice without any issues Tuesday.

"He seems to be preparing himself pretty well here," Rangers center Derick Brassard said. "We're expecting him to make a difference. He looked really good in practice [Tuesday]."

One morning skate to go.

"I will be ready," Lundqvist said.

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