Though he said at Sunday's practice he'd be good to go, Henrik Lundqvist confirmed following Monday's morning skate that he will be in goal tonight when the Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens in New York's home opener at Madison Square Garden. It will mark Lundqvist's first appearance in the last three games after having sat out Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Flyers and Saturday's 3-2 overtime win in Detroit due to an unspecified injury.
"I think everyone is real excited to play in front of our home fans and start to build some momentum here," Lundqvist told reporters after the skate.
Lundqvist has said in the last two days that his injury feels much better and that he is ready to move forward without being hindered by what had been ailing him. A Vezina Trophy finalist last year, Lundqvist suffered this unspecified injury in the second game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings, and finally shut it down last week---missing three practices and two games before getting back on the ice Thursday in Philly to work with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire.
Playing in the home opener was an openly-stated goal of Lundqvist's, though he also said time and again he would not rush back from his injury. Now that he he is healthy enough to play, Lundqvist is thrilled to take part in the home opener at the completely transformed Madison Square Garden.
"(The Garden) looks great, and it's a great feeling to see the building out there and to be here in the (locker) room," said Lundqvist. "Hopefully we can start playing well right away and get some confidence at home. It's always important to play well at home."
No other lineup changes---except for Lundqvist starting goal and Cam Talbot backing him up---are in store for the Rangers on Monday, meaning that defenseman Justin Falk and forward Brandon Mashinter will be scratched.
Tonight's home opener will also mark Alain Vigneault hone debut as head coach of the New York Rangers, and even though he is still feeling his way around his new office, Vigneault is genuinely excited to coach his team on home ice against one of his former teams, the Canadiens, thie evening.
"I think everybody---the players and coaches---has been waiting for this day for a long time, and it's finally here," stated Vigneault Monday morning. "I'm happy that it's here. The guys are ready."
Of course out side of the hoopla of opening night, there is an important game to play, and the Canadiens are a talented opponent---and one that has played well on the road so far this season. Vigneault praised Montreal goaltender Carey Price before the game, and called defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov "two of the best offensive d-men in the league".
"Up front they have skill and speed so they come at you in different ways, so it's going to be a big challenge for us tonight," explained Vigneault.
"Tonight we have the Habs, an Original Six matchup, those are always great and always fun, so there should be a lot of excitement in the building."