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Lundqvist looks to refine game heading into playoffs

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Among starting goaltenders in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist ranks first in goals-against average (1.87), save percentage (.934) and is tied with the Kings' Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts with eight.

Following the Rangers' 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings on Wednesday in which he made 26 saves for his third win in four starts, Lundqvist said he wanted to sharpen his game and improve in some areas that need work.

Yes, the presumptive favorite for the Vezina Trophy feels like he should be playing better as the Rangers get set to face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night on Madison Square Garden.

"I need to be more focused and make better decisions," Lundqvist said. "It's tough to play perfect games. Sometimes you make poor decisions and it costs you, and sometimes it doesn't cost you. That's what you're always trying to do. You're trying to play a perfect game where you make good decisions all the time and don't put yourself in trouble by making a bad read. That's what it comes down to. It's not technically how I can change. It's the way I focus. Just the keep the game simple. It's exciting. I feel like getting we're getting closer. Sometimes that helps you not overthink. You just go out and play."

March hasn't been the best month so far for Lundqvist. He allowed 16 goals in five games to start the month before being hit with the flu bug after a 4-3 win against the Islanders on March 19. Since returning, Lundqvist has looked more like himself, going 2-1 with a 1.65 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Exhaustion hasn't been a problem in the past for Lundqvist, and he said it won't be again this year. Even if he starts in all nine remaining games for the Rangers, those 63 starts will be his fewest since taking over the No. 1 goaltending job in 2006-07. To make up for the diminished playing time, Lundqvist said he'll use practices, as rare as they are this time of year, to stay sharp.

"When you're out there you need to go hard, get good habits," Lundqvist said. "You don't want to be out there and cheating because you're tired. I'm not tired, so that's a good thing.

"Going into the last few weeks, you don't really feel tired. When you don't practice that much, you can save a lot of energy for the games. I think biggest difference year was in December and late-November, not playing as much. Maybe I would've been a little tired (in the past at that time). But this time of year, you're never really tired."

Lundqvist started the Rangers' final 26 regular-season games last season due to a broken collarbone suffered by backup goaltender Martin Biron. The Rangers made the playoffs, but were ushered out the door by the Washington Capitals in the first round in five games.

Since it wasn't a problem last year, Lundqvist doesn't see fatigue being a problem this year.

"I felt great. I wasn't tired," Lundqvist said. "Going down the stretch you're so focused. Especially if you're winning and doing well, I think that helps. You're relaxed. But I wasn't tired going into the playoffs. But that was in April. Our goal is to play in June. But right now, I pretty much feel the way I always do this time of the year."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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