The New York Rangers are doing just fine without Henrik Lundqvist, but that’s more a reflection of their offense than his replacement.
Returning to Madison Square Garden following a perfect road trip, the Rangers will again have Cam Talbot in net as they go for a fifth straight win Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
New York (34-16-5) is 5-1-1 since losing Lundqvist to a neck injury, and much of that success is due to averaging 4.14 goals. The Rangers totaled 22 while sweeping a four-game trip, scoring at least five in each contest.
They scored three unanswered goals in the third period of Monday’s 6-5 win over the New York Islanders.
Talbot has been the beneficiary of the offensive surge. He had a 3.25 goals-against average during the trip after making 38 saves Monday, following a stick-handling error that led to the opening goal at 11 seconds.
"There’s no time really to think about things (when you are starting consistently)," Talbot told the team’s official website. "One game is over, you start focusing on the next one. It’s nice that you don’t have two weeks to sit and think about it and go over all the goals I let in until the next time you play.That’s a lot of fun for me right now."
Talbot made 35 saves in a 5-2 win over the Canucks (32-21-3) at MSG on Nov. 30, 2013. It’s unclear if Talbot or 20-year-old rookie MacKenzie Skapski will get the nod Friday in Buffalo when the Rangers play on back-to-back days for the first time since losing Lundqvist.
"Cam is going to play (Thursday)," said Vigneault, whose 501 wins tie him with Pat Burns for 19th in league history. "I think for him this is what he’s wanted for a long time, an opportunity to play, and he’s getting that opportunity. I’m only talking about (Thursday)!"
New York scored the first five goals in a 5-1 rout at Vancouver on Dec. 13, its fifth consecutive win in the series.
Mats Zuccarello, who had two goals in that matchup, was held without a point Monday for the second straight game after totaling nine in his previous seven.
Ryan McDonagh has three goals in three games after scoring a pair for the first time in his career against the Islanders. The captain has two goals and two assists in the last four meetings with the Canucks.
Fellow defenseman Kevin Klein has seven points during a five-game streak, including the go-ahead goal with 4:32 left in regulation Monday.
This is the start of a five-game trip for the Canucks, who beat Minnesota 3-2 on Monday for their third win in four tries. Alex Biega scored the decisive goal in the third period in his first career game.
Biega was called up from the minors earlier in the day with Vancouver missing several defensemen. Kevin Bieksa (hand) and Frank Corrado (illness) are sidelined, while Alexander Edler (upper body) and Christopher Tanev (undisclosed) could miss a second straight game.
Forwards Nick Bonino and Brad Richardson (both lower body) are on injured reserve.
"I think it’s brought us together in some ways because guys realize that we just need every guy. We can’t afford one guy’s not playing," coach Willie Desjardins said. "We gotta battle until we get everyone back healthy."
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin had a goal and an assist Monday, giving him 10 points in 10 games. He has none in his last four meetings with the Rangers.