First Alain Vigneault told Cam Talbot out on the ice at Wednesday's practice, then the Rangers head coach informed the media in no uncertain terms once the practice was over.
"Cam's going (Thursday), I already told him today at practice...(Henrik Lundqvist) is not playing...and he's not going to be the back up either," Vigneault stated, referring to Talbot making his first NHL start in goal when the Rangers face off with the Flyers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.
"If this had been a playoff game (Lundqvist) would probably be playing," explained the head coach. "It's something that is day to day, that we can nip it in the bud by taking one more day or two. It's something we should be able to turn the page on and you won't hear about it any more."
Vigneault refused to reveal the nature of Lundqvist's injury---one that has forced the former Vezina Trophy winner to miss each of the last three practices this week. The coach repeatedly said the injury was "minor" and did point out that it is something Lundqvist has dealt with for about ten days, and which was irritated in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Devils.
With Lundqvist not dressing for Thursday's game, the Rangers will have a pair of rookies as their goaltenders. Talbot, 26, will make his NHL debut while 22 year-old Jason Missiaen will serve as the back up. Vigneault would not look past the Flyers game and speculate as to whether or not Lundqvist could play Saturday in Detroit against the Red Wings.
"I basically told (Talbot) he's in, to enjoy it," said Vigneault. "He's obviously been waiting for this opportunity a long time and he's played real well so far this year at our training camp and in Hartford, so he's ready for this opportunity."
Talbot, who grew up idolizing Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy because he loved his passion, enthusiasm, and big-game capability, has 116 games of AHL experience and another couple of games of ECHL experience heading into his first National Hockey League game Thursday. He appeared in a career-high 55 games with the Connecticut Whale last season, and is 4-0-1 through five starts with the Hartford Wolf Pack this year.
An undrafted free agent out of Alabama-Huntsville University, Talbot is very calm and exudes a quite confidence. He was relaxed and matter of fact when discussing filling in for Lundqvist---against a team he faced in the very same building just this past pre-season---after practice on Wednesday.
"I have been waiting a long time for this, working towards this, so I'll be ready if I get the call," stated Talbot. "I am extremely excited. It's every kid's dream that grows up playing hockey to one day get the chance to play in the NHL. I just can't wait 'til that time comes. I'll have to approach it like any other game. It'll be tough to control those emotions, but I'll have to do my best to settle myself down and just focus on the game."
No matter the goalie Thursday, there is still only one goal from a team standpoint, in Brad Richards' opinion.
"We need this win," said Richards. "Every team goes through where their starting goalie doesn't play every night. We don't prepare any differently. We need a win."
Vigneault said he still needed some time to decide on his 12 forwards for Thursday's game. Right now the team is carrying one extra forward with the recent call-ups of Chris Kreider and Brandon Mashinter, who likely will both play against the Flyers. At practice Wednesday Vigneault had Mats Zuccarello, Taylor Pyatt, and Jesper Fast all splitting time on the third line with center Brian Boyle. None of those three has recorded a point yet this season, so the healthy scratch just might come from that group, with the other two dressing against Philly.
Michael Del Zotto, a healthy scratch in New Jersey after missing last Wednesday's game with the flu, will return to the Rangers lineup Thursday and take the place of Justin Falk.