NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot got a text message from his coaching staff Sunday that simply read "Be ready."
The 26-year-old, who has a 6-1-0 record and leads the NHL entering action Monday in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.944), suspected the text meant he would be starting consecutive games for the first time in his brief NHL career. But at the time he wasn't sure.
He's sure now after coach Alain Vigneault revealed Monday that Talbot will start in net for the Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets. It's the first time goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has sat out consecutive games since February 2011. But Vigneault downplayed any talk of a controversy.
"Cam has played extremely well right now. He's got a lot of confidence in his abilities and for tonight's game I just thought that was the right call," Vigneault said. "Henrik is definitely the No. 1 goaltender on this team. He's proven that over the years he's one of the best if not the best in the National Hockey League. But for tonight's game I feel the best thing for us is to go with Cam."
It's been a meteoric rise for Talbot, who just over three years ago was closing out his college career at the University of Alabama-Huntsville before signing with the Rangers as a free agent. Following a brief stint with the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL and three seasons in the American Hockey League, Talbot made his NHL debut Oct. 24 and has yet to allow more than two goals in any of his seven starts. The last goalie to accomplish that feat in his first seven starts was Frank Brimsek in 1938-39.
Through Talbot's unlikely breakout season, which started with New York's AHL affiliate in Connecticut, he has tried to stay humble. But he admits even he never expected to get to this point.
"When I got called up, I assumed I was just going to be playing spot starts. Didn't really know what to make of it at the time," Talbot said. "I just tried to come in and play pretty solid for the guys and give them a chance to win. That's what I've been trying to do since I got here."
His strong play of late has helped endear him to a Rangers team that went 9-6-0 in November. And with New York playing 10 of its next 11 at home, it's clear Talbot could be a big part of the success going forward.
"He's a very easy guy to get to know. Pretty low-maintenance. You don't hear much from him," center Brad Richards said. "He battles hard in practice and he's learning from one of the best [in Lundqvist]. It's been an easy transition for him so far. Hopefully it keeps translating on the ice. He's done a great job for us."
As an understudy to Lundqvist, Talbot has shined thus far. And Lundqvist, who is unsigned following this season, was quick to show his support for Talbot. But he acknowledged he would rather be playing than sitting on the bench.
"I've been here for eight years. Have I ever been happy sitting on the bench? I don't think so. But that being said, Cam is playing really well," said Lundqvist, who has an 8-11-0 record. "We have a great relationship. I support him, he supports me. This is about the team. This is what's best for tonight. I support that. I try to see a positive thing with everything. Even though sometimes you don't like the way things turn out. I get some quality practice time here and just try to improve a few things."