PITTSBURGH – Alain Vigneault said Thursday that the Rangers’ doctors believe Henrik Lundqvist’s right eye injury is “nothing too serious,” but there is swelling around the eye, so he was sent to see a specialist again in Pittsburgh Thursday.
Vigneault, who spoke at the team hotel, expected to have more information prior to Friday’s noon practice at CONSOL Energy Center ahead of Game 2 Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Rangers, who planned to spend the afternoon at a Pittsburgh Pirates game, did call up third-string goalie Magnus Hellberg to guard against a worst-case scenario for Lundqvist, however.
“That’s in case we get some bad news tomorrow, but at this time we don’t feel that way,” Vigneault said.
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist slumps to the ice after taking a stick to the eye.
Vigneault said he immediately wondered how a stick blade could fit through a hole in a goalie mask, but he admitted he has seen that happen before in an NHL game – though he doesn’t recall to whom.
Rick Nash, Keith Yandle and Derek Stepan, the three Rangers players who spoke at the availability, all sounded prepared to play without their starting goalie.
Nash specifically said a Lundqvist absence “doesn’t mean it’s over.” Vigneault also ruled captain Ryan McDonagh (right hand injury) out for Game 2.
Lundqvist eventually left Wednesday night’s 5-2 Game 1 loss to the Penguins at first intermission after teammate Marc Staal’s stick blade caught him in the right eye.
He stayed in the game for the final 48.2 seconds of the first period after the injury, though Vigneault said the goal wasn’t scored because of the goalie but because “we had three guys watching the puck behind the net who forgot about No. 72 in front.”
Magnus Hellberg has been recalled from the minors on Thursday.
Vigneault said he told Lundqvist at the team meal after the game that he came close to pulling him immediately, but the goalie was adamant that he could stay in. The coach believes Lundqvist did not want to force backup Antti Raanta into a game cold.
But Raanta eventually replaced Lundqvist for the final two periods in Raanta’s playoff debut. Stepan said Lundqvist’s intermission routine was normal until five minutes before the team came out for the second, when someone came in to say Lundqvist was coming in.
If Lundqvist does not start Game 2, it will end a streak of 111 consecutive playoff starts he has made for the Rangers dating back to Kevin Weekes’ Game 2 spot start in 2006.
Lundqvist has been replaced only five times in a game during that stretch: twice by Steve Valiquette for a total of 40 minutes in 2009, twice by Cam Talbot for a total of 46 minutes in 2014, and once by Raanta on Wednesday.