For the second straight day on Tuesday Henrik Lundqvist did not take part in practice with his Rangers teammates at the MSG Training Center due to an undisclosed "minor" issue. For a team already playing without its star power forward Rick Nash, its captain Ryan Callahan, and one of its key engines in speedy winger Carl Hagelin, Lundqvist's absence was most definitely not what the doctor ordered.
Yet after practice head coach Alain Vigneault did not bemoan his team's bad luck with early-season injuries, and instead said that "without a doubt" he had confidence rookie back up Cam Talbot could backstop this team in quality fashion should he be called upon to start Thursday night in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
"We're going to need him to play here, we have eight games in 15 nights so we're going to need him to play whether it's Thursday or after that," Vigneault said of Talbot on Tuesday. "I'm confident he'll be real good for us."
Lundqvist was seen briefly on the ice wearing shorts and a tee shirt for a brief twirl before the rest of the team emerged from the dressing room to begin practice around 11:00 in the morning at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday. He was unavailable to the media afterwards, and Vigneault did not specify what is wrong with Lundqvist.
The remarkably durable Lundqvist had appeared in 511 career games over eight seasons in the NHL entering the 2013-14 campaign. He has appeared in all seven games the Rangers have played this season---starting six---and has posted an un-Henrik like 3.45 goals against average and .890 save percentage so far.
"This is a team game and our execution needs to be better, but our goaltending also needs to get better," stated Vigneault. "We believe in (Lundqvist), and we're confident that he's going to do for us what he is supposed to do."
The specter of Lundqvist not being able to play Thursday night now looms over he Rangers, though the players are taking a cue from their coach and are not concerned with who may or may not be in the lineup against the Flyers.
"You can't dwell who's out of the lineup and who's in," offered Derek Dorsett. "We'd like for the all the big guys to be in our lineup because they are huge parts of this team and this organization and it's a blow when we lose them, but it gives other guys chances to step up and take on other roles. We just have to work through it. We can't dwell on it."
Derick Brassard added, "There are injuries to every team. For us, of course we are missing some of our top players, but we have a lot of depth, good young players. We just need to have a good week. There are no excuses."
Talbot had a very strong training camp and has played very well for the Hartford Wolf Pack to start the season. He and the team have yet to lose in regulation, with Talbot posting a 4-0-1 record, 2.49 goals against average, and .924 save percentage in starting five of Hartford's six games to date.
Vigneault got a first-hand look at the 26 year-old netminder in action last Friday night when the Wolf Pack skated to a 4-3 home ice win and came away very impressed. The Rangers head coach believes that when Talbot is called upon to make his first NHL start in the coming days or weeks, he will be more than ready, and so will the team in front of him.
"If for whatever reason we need to use Talbot I think our guys will try real hard for him," explained Vigneault. "It would be his first regular season NHL game so I would expect our group to rally around that and play real hard in front of him."
As for the other injured Rangers, Hagelin practiced with full contact yet again Tuesday and seems on target to play when he is eligible to come off LTIR in seven days when the Rangers visit the Islanders. Nash did not skate again and the team did not have an update on his condition; while Callahan will be out likely another three weeks with a broken thumb.