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Friday, September 17, 2010

Limiting Lundqvist, or at Least Trying To

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers may not know what to expect this season, but they do know one thing: their workhorse goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, will be playing less.

Then again, they said that last year.

Both Lundqvist, in an interview this week, and Coach John Tortorella, speaking on Thursday on the eve of training camp, said Lundqvist’s workload would be reduced.

“What did we play him last year, 73 games?” said Tortorella, noting that no Stanley Cup-winning goalie in the last six years had played more than 62 regular-season games. “That’s ridiculous — it’s just too much.”

Lundqvist said: “I think that’s the plan — it’s been the plan the last couple of years. It just didn’t turn out that way.”

Last year, Tortorella said he expected Steve Valiquette, then the backup goalie, to fill in more often, but he played poorly and was demoted to Hartford. The Rangers found themselves in a season-long struggle to make the playoffs, forcing Lundqvist to play almost every game.

He played superbly the whole way, including the season finale, a 46-save shootout loss to Philadelphia, 2-1, that cost the Rangers a playoff berth.

“I was ready for the playoffs,” Lundqvist said. “On the other hand, that was mid-April. If your goal is to play in June, it might be better to rest a couple more games.”

Over the summer, the Rangers signed Martin Biron, a reliable 33-year-old backup who has played for the Islanders, the Flyers and the Sabres. “We’re excited about Biron being here to take some of the load off Hank,” Tortorella said.

Very little else about the Rangers is definite — the team’s outlook is “clouded,” as Tortorella put it. Almost every position is in flux.

Right wing Marian Gaborik, whose 42 goals last season were 23 more than the next highest Ranger, remains the primary offensive threat. He will be paired on the first line with another new signing, left wing Alexander Frolov, who averaged 24 goals in seven seasons with Los Angeles.

But who their center will be is unclear. The newly re-signed Marc Staal remains a top defenseman, but Tortorella said he was not sure who would be Staal’s partner.

“You’ve got to give me some time till I see what this team is,” Tortorella said. “There are so many new guys in camp.”

Among the new faces will be three veterans skating on a tryout basis.

Wing Ruslan Fedotenko won a Stanley Cup under Tortorella with Tampa Bay in 2004. In fact, Fedotenko scored both goals in the 2-1 Game 7 victory that clinched the Cup. He won the Cup again in 2009 with Pittsburgh.

Defenseman Alexei Semenov is back in camp after being offered a roster spot last season before leaving suddenly to play for Dinamo Moscow. General Manager Glen Sather told reporters Semenov left because his wife wanted to return home, but Semenov said it was because the Dinamo contract paid more.

Todd White is a 35-year-old center who broke the 20-goal plateau twice with Ottawa and once with Atlanta. But he is not the No. 1 center the Rangers need.

The problem for the Rangers — as it is for so many other teams — is how to fit new players under the salary cap. Staal’s new five-year contract counts as a $3.975 million cap hit, putting the Rangers $4 million over the limit.

One solution could be to send the much-maligned veteran defenseman Wade Redden and his $6.5 million cap hit to Hartford. But “we’re not going to single out Wade Redden,” Tortorella said.

“I’m sure it’s weighing on him a little bit,” Tortorella said. “We need to let this play out. A lot of different things can happen.”

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