Lundqvist going for milestone when Ranges host Avs (Feb 11, 2017)
Henrik Lundqvist seeks to become only the 12th goaltender in NHL history to win 400 games when he and the New York Rangers host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
The odds favor Lundqvist in achieving that career milestone on Saturday because the Rangers (35-18-1) are on a four-game winning streak, and have been one of the league's top teams all season, while the Avalanche (15-34-2) own the worst record in the entire National Hockey League.
Yet the Rangers are not taking anything for granted.
"We can't take anyone lightly," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said following practice on Friday. "We have a lot of confidence, but know that it's that process why we've been successful, and that can't change no matter the opponent."
Though his play has been heavily scrutinized this season, due to its inconsistent nature, Lundqvist has been terrific of late. He has won seven of his last eight decisions, with a save percentage right around 94 percent.
Already this season, Lundqvist passed Dominik Hasek as the all-time winningest European-born goaltender in NHL history; and he became the only goalie in league history to win 20 or more games in each of his first 12 seasons.
Now Lundqvist is on the verge of joining an elite group of goaltenders with just one more victory.
"Every time you reach a milestone you think about the players you've played with, and who have helped you along the way," said Lundqvist. "There are a lot of great memories; and reaching 400 will be special."
The Rangers are looking to finish off a sweep of their four-game home stand. They have already beaten the Flames, Ducks, and Predators this week on home ice; and are 18-5-0 against Western Conference teams this year.
Overall, the Rangers have won seven of their last nine games. Most recently, they rallied past Nashville, 4-3, on Thursday as the line combination of Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller combined for three goals and six points. Grabner scored his team-best 26th goal; Miller netted a pair, and has nine points (2-7-9) in a five-game point streak; and Hayes recorded three assists.
There's no doubt the Avalanche will need to be at their best Saturday to deny Lundqvist his 400th win and snap the Rangers' winning streak, as well. Of course, they will attempt to do so without their No. 1 goalie, Semyon Varlamov, who was recently shut down for the remainder of the season following hip surgery.
Calvin Pickard has started five of the last six games in goal for Colorado. He shut out the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday; but he, and the team, are coming off a 4-1 home-ice loss Thursday to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One area of Colorado's game that is coming around lately is the power play. Gabriel Landeskog scored a power-play goal Thursday against the Penguins, and the team has now recorded power-play goals in three straight games for the first time this season.
"That's three games in a row we've scored (on the power play), so that's a positive for us," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "For us to produce enough offense to win, we need the power play going. I think that's trending in the last little short term in the right direction."
Landeskog, who recorded a season-high eight shots on goal against the Penguins, extended his point-scoring streak to three consecutive games with his tenth goal. Nathan Mackinnon, who hit three posts Thursday, also has a three-game point streak coming into play against the Rangers, as does Mikko Rantenen, who notched a hat trick Tuesday against the Canadiens.
"We want to carry that momentum," Landeskog said to the team's web site. "For the most part, we've been playing with four lines and everyone has been contributing. We want to get back on the road and spend some quality time with the guys and do some damage."
Saturday's contest is the start of a five-game road trip for the Avalanche. The Avs have more road victories (eight) than home wins (seven) this season.