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Lundqvist says fewer starts will mean more wins

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- Despite starting 72 games last season, mostly without a safety net since the Rangers didn't have a real suitable backup for him, Henrik Lundqvist said he didn't feel a twinge of exhaustion as he packed up for the long summer following Game No. 82 of the regular season.

Was his pride crushed? Yes. Was he angry? Of course. But, Lundqvist felt strong and was ready to continue on into the spring if he and the Rangers had just won that last-day shootout in Philadelphia.

But looking back on his 2009-10 season, and particularly his workload, Lundqvist admitted Tuesday in an interview with that starting 72 regular-season games nowadays is not smart if you want to keep up your hopes of playing into June.

The last goalie to start 70-plus regular-season games and then play into June was Martin Brodeur in 2003 when he started 73 before leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup. The highest number of starts for a Cup Final goalie since was the 61 made by Marc-Andre Fleury in 2008-09.

That's why Lundqvist is so excited to head to camp with Martin Biron as his backup. Biron can spell Lundqvist for 20 or so starts and the drop-off won't be as significant as it was last season when Steve Valiquette, Alex Auld, Matt Zaba and Chad Johnson combined for just 10 starts.

"For a regular season, I think, no, (72 starts) is not too much. But our goal should be and has to be to play in June, so (signing Biron) is just another step in that direction," Lundqvist, who won 35 of those starts, told "Let's look forward here, move forward and see what we can do this year."

Lundqvist was in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday being honored as the newest celebrity inducted into Gray Line New York's "Ride of Fame" campaign. He was on hand for a ceremony to reveal and ride on the tour bus that is personalized in his honor.

Whoopi Goldberg, Donald Trump and Rachael Ray are the other celebrities with Gray Line buses named for them, but they didn't have to listen to fans on the street in front of Madison Square Garden ordering them to "Bring us the Cup."

Lundqvist and the Rangers fell way short of that goal last season, when they were knocked out of the playoff race on the final day of the regular season. The sting hasn't faded with time.

"It hits you once in a while, but at the same time it's hard to get disappointed or mad for losing the last game," Lundqvist said. "That's not where we lost the season. We went on a great run the last 12 games, but we just put ourselves in a really bad spot going into the last 15 games."

The Rangers have made changes since, adding Alexander Frolov, Derek Boogaard, Todd White and most recently Tim Kennedy to their fleet of forwards. But the move that most affects Lundqvist is the acquisition of Biron.

Of course, it's ridiculous to think the main reason the Rangers didn't make the playoffs last season was because they had a revolving door of backup goalies. But those four backups combined for just three wins -- one more would have put New York in the playoffs.

Lundqvist had everything fall onto his shoulders. With Biron that shouldn't be the case.

"When I'm not playing, we have a great goalie to step in and it's going to push me to play even better because if I'm not playing well enough he will take my job," Lundqvist said.

For now, Lundqvist is focused on getting an early start. He is already skating with some of his teammates at the Rangers' suburban practice facility, and can sense the vibe among the guys being one of anticipation.

He's hoping everyone who was around last season remembers how hard it was to watch hockey this spring.

"I hope that is going to be the feeling starting camp, that everybody is determined to be better, to improve," Lundqvist said. "Me personally, you take it pretty hard. You're the goalie and you have a big impact if you're going to make it or not, and we didn't last year so I want to have a better year.

"I can't wait for camp to start."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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