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Rangers News: Lundqvist Returns to the Ice

The Return of the King (sorry, I had to do it).

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Visual confirmation: Henrik Lundqvist on the ice today. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) <a href="">March 24, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The last time we saw Henrik Lundqvist on the ice for the Rangers was on February 2nd at Madison Square Garden when he returned to the crease after sustaining his vascular injury in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on January 31st. In that February 2nd start Hank stopped 33 of 36 shots in a 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers. We haven't seen him on the ice for a game or a team practice until today.

The Rangers have gone 20-2-3 since Hank's injury. Seriously, just look at that record. Of the possible 50 points the Rangers could have earned in Lundqvist's absence, they have missed out on only 7. A gigantic part of the club's recent success has been the sensational play of Cam Talbot. I'm not sure we have said enough (or could ever say enough) about how amazing this run has been and/or how outstanding Talbot has been during it, but I seriously doubt any of us anticipated the team and Talbot to respond in the way it has after the face of the franchise was knocked out of the lineup with a serious injury.

Let's not forget that Talbot started the season off with an 0-2-1 record and allowed 12 goals in his first 3 starts. Just to put things in perspective and throw an amazing stat at you guys; Cam Talbot has not allowed more than 2 goals in a game in the month of March. That's 9 games. The only game that Talbot didn't start in March was a shutout by rookie Mackenzie Skapski. That is absolutely bananas. The quality of goaltending that the Rangers have had this season after a worrisome start has deservedly been one of the biggest stories of the season. The pressure on Talbot and the Rangers was immense after Lundqvist's injury and the club responded to it in a way that exceeded everyone's expectations. They not only kept up their improved play, they played better.

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So when should we expect Hank back in the crease for the Rangers?

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">#NYR</a> head coach Alain Vigneault said that Lundqvist playing in Ottawa on Thursday &quot;would be a stretch.&quot;</p>&mdash; Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) <a href="">March 24, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Hank targeting this weekend for his first game. Not set in stone of course. At Boston Saturday. Host Caps Sunday.</p>&mdash; Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) <a href="">March 24, 2015</a></blockquote>
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All signs point to Hank wanting to get back in the blue paint as quickly as possible, but given how important he is to the team and how well Cam Talbot and Mackenzie Skapski have been playing, there is no real rush to get him back in there without making sure he gets some practices under his belt. Tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings will be the 72nd game of the Rangers' regular season, which certainly doesn't leave a lot of time for Hank to get ready for playoff hockey, but rushing his return is almost certainly the worst thing the club could do at this point. The goalie that should start tonight is Cam Talbot and that is just what the club is going to do. Skapski will remain the team's backup tonight.

Which means we should be circling either Saturday's game against the Bruins in Boston at 1:00 PM or Sunday's game against the Capitals at MSG at 3:00 PM for Hank's first start since February 2nd. The King is finally returning, Rangers fans. No matter how amazing Cam Talbot has been or how much rust Hank might have in this last gasp of the regular season, the bottom line is that this team just got a whole hell of a lot better and just got (in my opinion) its most important leader back in the locker room.

Welcome back Hank. Let's go Rangers.