Henrik Lundqvist, who has the flu, will not start for the New York Rangers tonight when they host the New York Islanders. Cam Talbot (10-3, 1.62 GAA, .940 SV%), who would lead the league in GAA and SV% if he had enough minutes to qualify, gets the call instead.
As for who will be sitting on the bench backing Talbot up, that's anyones guess. Currently, the two goalies in Hartford are journeyman minor leaguers Dov Grumet-Morris and David LeNeveu–remember him? He originally came to the Blueshirts in the deal that sent Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa to Phoenix in exchange for Fredrik Sjostrom and Josh Gratton. Not the best of times for Rangers' fans.
If the Rangers don't summon either of them, option B is to dress either a practice goalie or someone who works for the organization that has some experience wearing the pillows, as the Washington Capitals did earlier this year.
Are you a beer league hero with delusions of grandeur? Give Glen Sather a call and maybe YOU can be the Rangers backup tonight.
On second thought, maybe it would just be better if everyone really, really, wishes Talbot doesn't come down with anything before game time. And before someone suggests Marty Biron, he tweeted earlier:
Won't make it to NYC. Must be pretty bad out. Stay safe. I was so looking forward to doing broadcast from my old backup seat!! #justkidding
As for the nights festivities taking place beyond the bench, the Rangers (27-21-3) and Islanders (20-24-7) will be meeting for the 1st of 3 times in a span of 10 days–the teams' final 3 regular season meetings–begging the question: whose brilliant idea was it to keep these two from playing each other the final 3 months of the year? Rangers-Oilers March 30th will surely be much more scintillating than a late season rivalry tilt.
In any event, this stretch of 3 meetings comes at a time when both teams are playing some of their best hockey of the year. The Rangers have won 3 in a row and 6 of 7, and the Islanders–previously left for dead in the basement of the Metropolitan–are 9-3 in their last 12. With goaltending always an issue for the Isles–even when starter Evgeni Nabokov is healthy (Kevin Poulin, 10-14, 3.10, .895, starts tonight)–the soon-to-be Brooklynites have been doing it with offense.
During their recent 12 game surge, the Islanders are scoring 3.58 goals per game, and have 3 of the NHL's 6 leading scorers since December 17th–John Tavares, 22 points, Thomas Vanek, 21, and Kyle Okposo, 20–all in just 16 games played.
With the Rangers having scored 8 goals in their past 2 games, it could be a shootout at the O.K. Corral.
That is, if Cam Talbot and the Rangers mystery backup don't have anything to say about it.
-The Daily News' Pat Leonard suggests that Scott Stajcer, of the Rangers' ECHL affiliate the Greenville Road Warriors, could be the guy. Who knows, especially with the snow complicating things.
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