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Henrik Lundqvist to start for Rangers on Sunday

Goaltender will return from hip injury against Ducks

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has missed seven games with an injured hip, said he will start against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

"There's some thinking behind it, and just try and get a good plan here over the next three or four days," Lundqvist said after practice Friday. "It made the most sense to play Sunday. Good skate today and morning skate tomorrow and I'll be ready. Hopefully."

The Rangers next play Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, MSG+, NHL.TV).

New York coach Alain Vigneault said the plan is to have Lundqvist also play against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the third of three games on this California trip.

The decision to have Lundqvist play Sunday instead of Saturday was more a byproduct of start times (the game against the Ducks starts at 9 p.m. ET). Vigneault said Lundqvist could have returned Saturday 

"He's ready," Vigneault said. "He could play tomorrow without a doubt."

Goalie Antti Raanta will start his eighth straight game; he is 2-3-2 in the prior seven. 

Lundqvist said earlier in the week he felt he could have played against the New York Islanders on Wednesday, but the extra days of practice have given him the chance to work on his game.

The 35-year-old has been out since injuring his hip March 7 in a 5-2 win at the Florida Panthers.

"Coming back, you can't expect to feel perfect right away," Lundqvist said. "You have to work yourself into feeling good by focusing on all the little things. I always talk about taking it game by game, try to grow your game and your confidence and your overall feeling."

The Rangers (45-25-4) hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Lundqvist is 30-17-2 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .913 save percentage this season.

The ideal number of remaining regular-season starts for Lundqvist would be five or six, Vigneault said.

"If that's what I'm getting then it has to work," Lundqvist said. "You don't have any other choice. I think going through this before, one or two games and then you feel pretty good. The first game you might be a little rusty.

"But you just go out there and compete and the rest just takes care of itself. So I'm not worried about that."

Vigneault said injured defenseman Dan Girardi, who was paired with Ryan McDonagh in practice, will return Saturday. Girardi (ankle) has been out since Feb. 26. Defenseman Kevin Klein (back spasms) is ready but won't play until later on the trip, Vigneault said.

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