EL SEGUNDO -- The date is set: Henrik Lundqvist will return to the lineup Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks after a nearly three-week absence with a hip strain.
"There's some thinking behind it," Lundqvist said about why he'll play Sunday rather than Saturday night in Los Angeles. "Trying to get a good plan over the next three or four days. It made sense to play Sunday. Get in a good skate today and a morning skate tomorrow and we'll be ready, hopefully."
Lundqvist has missed the last seven games with the hip injury that he suffered in a 5-2 win in Florida on March 7.
Coach Alain Vigneault said the thinking behind Sunday had everything to do with the team's schedule. With Sunday's game beginning at 6 pm local time, New York won't have a morning skate. By not playing tomorrow, Lundqvist can get one last practice in with the team's extras at the morning skate Saturday.
Vigneault added that Lundqvist will also play Tuesday in San Jose.
"He's ready," Vigneault said of Lundqvist. "He could play tomorrow without a doubt, but this way with the 7:30 start [Saturday] and then the 6 o'clock start [Sunday], [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] felt that it was a better fit for him."
Lundqvist has gone through extended injuries before in his career, most recently one that sidelined him for about two months during the 2014-15 season, so he knows better than to expect to feel perfect right out of the gate Sunday.
"Coming back, you can't expect to feel perfect right away," he said. "You have to work yourself into feeling good by focusing on all the little things that I always talk about. You take it game by game and try to grow your game, your confidence and your overall feeling about the game. I look forward to it. I've been out for about two and a half weeks, which is pretty much what they told me it'd be. They were right on the money there."
Lundqvist often talks about his compete level, including battling in practice. That was on display with a highlight-reel, diving glove save on Pavel Buchnevich. When asked about the stop, Lundqvist laughed it off and said that the save was only that nice because he's a bit rusty.
"It's looks like a great save, but to me, I'm not moving the way I should, and that's why I have to make that save," Lundqvist said. "If I'm quicker on my feet, I'm there with my body instead."
After Saturday's game against the Kings, the Rangers have seven games remaining in the regular season, including one back-to-back April 8 and 9 to close out the campaign. That should leave Lundqvist with five or six starts to prepare for the postseason.
Is that enough?
"If that's what I'm getting, then it has to work," Lundqvist said with a laugh. "I have no other choice. I think going through this before, I think it's one or two games and then you feel pretty good. The first game you might be a little rusty, but you go out there and compete and the rest takes care of itself. I'm not worried about that."