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Henrik Lundqvist of Rangers out 2-3 weeks

New York will be without starting goalie because of muscle strain in hip

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist will miss 2-3 weeks with a muscle strain in his hip.

Lundqvist was injured in the first period of a 5-2 win at the Florida Panthers on Tuesday but stayed in the game and finished with 43 saves.

"I know exactly when it happened," Lundqvist said Saturday. "If you would tell me to get off the ice you would not be able to because I wanted to continue to play. Now it's about how you deal with it and make the most of these next two weeks, training and rest and try to come back on top of things."

It's possible Lundqvist could be back in time for a three-game California road trip March 25-28. If not, he could return against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on March 31. The Rangers have four regular-season games in April before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Antti Raanta will get his 20th start of the season Sunday when the Rangers play the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena for the final time (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV). Magnus Hellberg, recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League, will be the backup. Hellberg has three NHL appearances, one this season, but no starts.

Raanta is 13-6-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He could start the next six games, though they come as three sets of back-to-backs.

"In today's game, and especially in a year like this year with the condensed schedule, you definitely need two goaltenders that can play," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Lundqvist is 30-17-2 with a 2.65 GAA and .913 save percentage in 49 starts. He appeared in 26 of 29 games, starting 25, from Dec. 31 through March 7.

"Right now I'm just focusing on the next week to 10 days," Lundqvist said. "We have a good plan here of what I need to do, and from there you take it step by step and see how it feels. We expect it to be 2-3 weeks, and we have to see how I react to the treatments and the exercise."

Video: NYR@CAR: Raanta battles to make a flurry of saves

New York is fourth in the Metropolitan Division and holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference; that would mean a first-round series against the winner of the Atlantic Division, likely either the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators.

The Rangers led the Toronto Maple Leafs, the best non-playoff team, by 14 points entering Saturday. If New York was in a more precarious position, losing Lundqvist for any time would be detrimental.

"We'll take some time here to get some treatment and heal," Lundqvist said.

Vigneault said prior to the season he wanted to keep Lundqvist to fewer than 60 starts, ideally in the 55-58 range, because research done by goalie coach Benoit Allaire showed that No. 1 goalies who make fewer than 60 starts have a better chance of succeeding in the playoffs. Lundqvist was on pace to start 59 games before the injury. 

Video: NYR@FLA: Lundqvist robs Jokinen with superb pad stop

Lundqvist has started fewer than 60 games in an 82-game season once since 2005-06. He made 46 starts in the 2014-15 season, when he missed 25 games with a throat injury. He returned to help the Rangers reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, giving credability to Allaire's theory.

Other examples include Corey Crawford helping the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2015 after starting 57 games in the regular season and Jonathan Quick helping the Los Angeles Kings win the Cup in 2014 after starting 49 games, although he missed 24 from mid-November to early January because of a groin injury.

Tim Thomas helped the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011 after appearing in 57 games (55 starts) in the regular season. He was 37 years old at the time. Lundqvist is 35 and might be in a better position to do what Thomas did six years ago by sitting out the next 2-3 weeks.

"It's part of the game. It happens," Lundqvist said of his injury. "Now it's about how do you deal with it the best way, treatments, the exercises you do, when to step on the ice and the timing. You have to make sure you do it right."

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