Only seven Rangers took part in Tuesday's optional morning skate at the Nassau Coliseum, including both goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot. Following the skate the goalies confirmed that Talbot will make the start Tuesday night against the Islanders and that Lundqvist, who played for the first time in nine days Monday against Montreal in the home opener, will not play back-to-back nights as he continues to work his way back from an undisclosed injury.
"That's my goal heading into this game, to give the guys a big lift and give them confidence back there," Talbot told BlueshirtsUnited.com after the skate. "It's a big thing to have two goalies back there you can have confidence in, so the guys don't have to worry when Hank is not in there."
Talbot will be starting for the third time in the past four games. He made his NHL debut last Thursday in a 2-1 loss to the Flyers, then backstopped Saturday's thrilling 3-2 overtime victory in Detroit for his first NHL victory. So far he has posted a 1.94 goals against average and .934 save percentage in his two starts.
It will be odd not to see Lundqvist play against the Islanders, a team he has faced 44 times in his career. He has more appearances against only two other teams---the Penguins (47) and the Devils (46)--- while his 27 victories against the Isles are second most in his career, one behind the 28 he has earned against New Jersey.
The 26 year-old Talbot is excited to get a first-hand look at what the Rangers-Islanders rivalry is all about.
"Obviously this is a big rivalry, a lot of bad blood between the two teams, and it's always a pretty heated game so it's going to be a great game to come into," said Talbot.
As for Lundqvist, who stopped 25 of 27 shots in the 2-0 loss to the Canadiens, he said he felt "pretty good" physically after his first game action in more than a week. He also said he understood why head coach Alain Vigneault decided to go with Talbot against the Islanders on Tuesday night.
"It's not the first time I don't play back-to-back," Lundqvist told reporters. "We have a lot of games coming up here, so I listen to the coach. I feel pretty good, but it is a challenge to play back-to-backs and Talbot is playing the way he's playing so it might be a good decision to split (these two games)."
Carl Hagelin also took part in the morning skate Tuesday and is eligible to come off LTIR and play this evening against the Islanders. He says the plan is to take part in warmups and then Vigneault will officially decide on his lineup.
"I am preparing myself to play," Hagelin said following the skate. "I think it's always frustrating to be on the sidelines, to be honest. You want to be out there to help the guys and you want to be a part of the team. It was frustrating, but at the same time I was able to get a lot of good work in. This is probably the strongest I have ever been."
Hagelin has been working out with his teammates for several weeks, but has missed the first ten games of the regular season following off-season shoulder surgery.
Rookie Jesper Fast was assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack last night to make room for Hagelin on the Rangers rster.