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Rangers On Playing Without Lundqvist for 2-3 Weeks

Plus Nash, Grabner Back; Smith on Detroit Return; Project Lineup

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

DETROIT -- The Rangers will be without goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for possibly up to three weeks following a hip injury he suffered Tuesday night in a win over the Florida Panthers.

"It was a save there where my body was going one way and my leg the other way and it impacted my hip," said Lundqvist, who missed Thursday's match with the Hurricanes in Carolina. "We'll take some time here to get some treatment and heal."

Lundqvist said he's not looking too far down the road and will stick to the schedule laid out for him by the team's medical staff. He said he'll only return to action when he's given the green light.

"I think right now I'm focused on the first week to 10 days," Lundqvist said. "We have a good plan here on what I need to do and from there take it step-by-step and see how it feels. We expect it to be two-to-three weeks, but we just have to see how I react to treatments and the exercise I'm going to do moving forward."

With Lundqvist sidelined, Antti Raanta will get the bulk of the starts between now whenever Lundqvist does return to action. The Ranger recalled Magnus Hellberg Saturday from Hartford (AHL) prior to flying to Detroit for Sunday's tilt with the Red Wings.

Raanta is 13-6-0 this season and despite not starting back-to-back games since Dec. 27 and 29, said he isn't going to change his approach now that he's the No. 1 netminder for the next several weeks.

"It's not going to change how I'm going to approach the games," Raanta said Saturday. "Of course there's going to be a couple more games for me to start. I just try to do my thing, try to give the team a chance to win. You never want anyone to get hurt on your team, but that's how hockey is."

The Rangers have 14 games remaining on the schedule and find themselves in the first Wild Card in the East, four points behind Pittsburgh and Washington, and seven behind Washington in the Metropolitan Division, so playoff seeding is still up in the air for New York.

Raanta, though, said he doesn't think about any added pressure for stepping in at this time of the year or for filling in for a player with Lundqvist's track record.

"I don't try to be Hank," Raanta said. "I just try to be myself. Hank's been the No. 1 guy here for a long time. He's probably got a couple weeks out now, so it's not going to change anything."

Coach Alain Vigneault often looks at the positives of any injury, stating when one player goes down, it's a chance for another to take on a larger role. He said that's no different here.

"You work with the guys that are healthy," Vigneault said. "Henrik is going to work real hard to get back to 100 percent, but right now we have two healthy goalies and Antti's good to go and he's the one that's going to play tomorrow."

Vigneault has found himself in this position before. Back in 2015, Lundqvist missed nearly two months of action due to injury, and then-backup Cam Talbot stepped in and helped lead New York to the Presidents Trophy.

What that period showed Vigneault was how important the backup role is on any team with championship aspirations.

"In today's game … you definitely need two goaltenders that can play," Vigneault said. "If you'll remember a couple years back when Hank got hurt and missed a couple months, Cam came in and played extremely well, and our whole group played extremely well during that time. That's what we're expecting from our group right now, to play a solid game in front of Antti. Play structurally sound and it's going to start tomorrow."
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While the Rangers will be without Lundqvist, they're expected to get Rick Nash and Michael Grabner back Sunday when they face the Red Wings.

Nash missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury, while Grabner has missed five games with a hip injury.
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Jesper Fast skated for the first time with the team in a non-contact jersey on Saturday. He's missed the last five games with an upper-body injury.

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Defenseman Brendan Smith faces his former team the Red Wings for the first time since being traded to New York just prior to the trade deadline earlier this month.

"I'm excited to get back there to play my last game at the Joe [Louis Arena]," Smith said. "The emotions are going to be different for me as they will be for some of the other players. I'm going to try and take every moment in. I love that rink. It's going to be sad to play there for the last time, but it'll be exciting to be on the ice. I liked competing against a bunch of those guys in practice, so it'll be fun to play against them."

Does Smith have a favorite moment in his former home building?

"I have plenty favorite moments," Smith said. "One I've got to put up there was my first goal was at The Joe. That was against Minnesota and it was really exciting. For sure I hold that one. My first playoff game there. There's so many different memories. I think I'll miss a lot about The Joe."
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The Rangers' projected lineup for Sunday:
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Pavel Buchnevich - Mika Zibanejad - Rick Nash
Michael Grabner - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller
Tanner Glass - Oscar Lindberg - Jimmy Vesey

Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh
Nick Holden - Brendan Smith
Brady Skjei - Steven Kampfe

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