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Lundqvist back in net again vs. Canadiens

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- In terms of workload, Henrik Lundqvist is enjoying his lightest season since he was a rookie in 2005-06.

As the New York Rangers head down the home stretch, that seems to be changing.

Lundqvist will make his season-high eighth-straight start when the Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at Madison Square Garden on Friday. The Rangers hold a five-point edge on the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference, with each team having five games remaining.

Coach John Tortorella has given varying answers this season about his goaltending situation, saying at times he doesn't have a No. 1 goaltender, that he has two goaltenders who he doesn't mind playing, and that he doesn't chart out a schedule for when his goaltenders are going to start.

If Lundqvist starts the Rangers' final five games, he'll finish the season with 63 starts, the fewest since he became the full-time starter in 2006-07.

But with home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs within reach, Lundqvist suddenly has become a very busy man.

"I think it's mentally and physically, you have to adjust a little bit," Lundqvist said about returning to his usual routine. "It's what I'm used to in the past. I play a lot, I feel good. You get a little more relaxed in between games because you're playing all the time, you're in it. Sometimes when you sit out, you might overthink it and come back a little tense. But now I just know I'm going out there to play.

"Right now, it's an exciting time. I love being out there."

As the regular season winds down and the playoffs begin, off-day practices become less frequent, so it's far easier to be at full capacity for a game now than it is earlier in the season, according to Lundqvist.

That perhaps was a problem earlier in the month, when Lundqvist was struggling. He spoke at length about wanting to improve his game and become sharper for the postseason. With fewer chances to work out the problems in practice, he's been doing it in games and said he is starting to feel better about his overall play.

"The last few games, I've played pretty good," said Lundqvist, who is coming off a 3-0-0 road trip and has won five of his last six starts. "I've played the way I want to play. When you're winning, you always feel a lot better. Technically, the last two have been pretty good, so I try to go from that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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