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Training Camp

Henrik Lundqvist energized by young Rangers

34-year-old goalie feeding off fresh faces as he prepares for 12th NHL season

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Sitting and catching his breath while doing an interview from his spot in the middle of the New York Rangers dressing room, on the far wall from the two entrances, goalie Henrik Lundqvist turns his head from side to side and smiles.

Lundqvist likes what he sees, a lot. For the 34-year-old goalie going into his 12th NHL season, 15 games shy from playing in his 700th, all with the Rangers, it's like he's bathing in his own personal fountain of youth. 

There's Jimmy Vesey and Mika Zibanejad, each 23. There's 21-year-old Pavel Buchnevich. None of them were with the Rangers last season. All three should be top-nine forwards this season.

There are the stalls that belong to 24-year-old Kevin Hayes and 23-year-old J.T. Miller, each entering their third full seasons as forwards with the Rangers, well-worn veterans at this point. Brady Skjei, 22, should be in the top-six defense group. Forward Nicklas Jensen, 23, has a chance to make the team.

The Rangers got younger this offseason. Lundqvist, their oldest player, thinks the youth movement will make them better.

Video: NYR@PHI: Lundqvist stops Schenn's one-timer

"You always need young players, and then you need guys with their experience. I think that mix makes a good team," Lundqvist said following practice Tuesday. "You need to feel that hunger in the room to want to get better. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, you always want to get better, but when you have new fresh faces come in the room who bring that type of energy, like you saw with the 23-and-under team [Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016], they're maybe not as experienced, but they definitely have the energy and a lot of skill too."

Lundqvist is feeding off that youthful energy around the Rangers, but it's not as if he came in lacking or needing a jolt to get him going for the season. Make no mistake, Lundqvist brought a lot of energy back with him to New York, too.

He arrived at Rangers camp Saturday following a few days off after playing for Team Sweden in the World Cup, where he had a .940 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average in three games. Team Sweden lost in overtime in the semifinals to Team Europe.

"I was really excited," Lundqvist said. "I was away for four months. I haven't been away from New York that long in 11 years, so it was a good feeling coming back."

Lundqvist got in his first preseason game Tuesday, when he played the first half of the game against the Philadelphia Flyers and stopped 17 of 18 shots. The Rangers lost 4-3 in overtime.

"We were pretty under siege there at the beginning when we were trying to find ourselves," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said, "but I felt like Hank was in the zone right away."

He looked sharp because he feels sharp, a benefit of playing in the World Cup, according to Lundqvist.

Video: NYR@PHI: Lundqvist stops Gostisbehere through traffic

"You know you're closer to where you need to be because you played games already," Lundqvist said. "Normally when you come into training camp you have a lot of energy, but you haven't played any games so it's hard to know where you're at, because you always need to play games to get some feedback. Now I've played a few games, I've gotten some feedback, I know what to work on."

He's hungry to improve on what he has already done, a career quite impressive in its totality, even Hall of Fame worthy.

McDonagh, who played for Team USA at the World Cup, said he could tell Lundqvist's competitive side was in overdrive in Toronto. He made 36 saves in a 2-0 win against Team Finland and 45 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss against Team North America.

"It was great to see him stand on his head there for his team multiple times," McDonagh said. "He wants to see results and to make an impact for his team. It was good to see that happen early on to get some confidence going forward."

Perhaps most important, Lundqvist is motivated by what lies ahead, not what happened last season, when the Rangers were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Lundqvist started all five games in that series, as he has started every one of the Rangers' past 115 playoff games. He allowed 15 goals in 205 minutes and finished with a 4.39 GAA and .867 save percentage, finishing two of those five games.

"That's behind you now," Lundqvist said. "It was an up-and-down year. I think if we faced another team in the first round maybe it would have gone a little differently. We really played the best team. You're not happy with the way we went out, but after you analyze it, think about it, you try to move on and just learn from it.

Video: Lundqvist after preseason debut

"New year, new opportunity, so you can't get stuck on that."

Instead, he's stuck on the Rangers right now.

For example, he's looking forward to getting to know Vesey better, to figuring out what type of shooter he is at the NHL level.

"I need a little more time before I can give you a read on him," Lundqvist said, smiling.

He said early returns are good on Zibanejad, acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators for forward Derick Brassard on July 18.

"Mika looks great out there," Lundqvist said. "A lot of skill too."

Lundqvist has more to learn about Buchnevich and Skjei as well. He can't wait to figure them out.

But when asked if the new faces make the Rangers feel as different as some of the pieces look, Lundqvist hesitated. He doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself, even though he knows he's wearing that 34-year-old smile fit for a fashion magazine when he looks around the room.

"You have to give us a little more time to feel that out, to figure it out what type of team we are," Lundqvist said. "Are we the same team? Are we a different team? I've only been here four days, but I'm sure it's going to have a different look to it. I'm sure it will."

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