Henrik Lundqvist
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic

Henrik Lundqvist is not seeing the usual amount of games he’s used to with the New York Rangers this year, and he’s slowly getting used to it.

Dom Renna

For the last 13 years, Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone of the New York Rangers. He’s played in as many games as possible, showing the competitive edge that sets him apart from any other goalie and has gotten him this far in a Hockey Hall of Fame career.

This season has been a difficult one for Lundqvist, who’s seen a fair amount of change throughout the Blueshirts’ roster dating back to last February. Only four players remain from the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Final appearance, and now his playing is starting to decrease with the Rangers trying to see what they have with rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev.

Throughout the first 13 years of his career, the now 37-year-old goaltender averaged 61.9 starts per season with a career-high 73 starts back in 2009-10 campaign. So far this year, he’s appeared in just 44 games while Georgiev made his 25th appearance Tuesday night in Dallas.

Lundqvist made seven starts in the month of February, while Georgiev would go on to make six despite the Rangers not having a set of back-to-back games in the month. Georgiev has also started three of the last five games for the Blueshirts with a healthy Lundqvist serving as his backup in all three of those starts.

Following practice Monday, head coach David Quinn was asked what his plan was moving forward with the Rangers goaltending situation was. Responding to Newsday’s Brian Heyman, the plan is for the two goaltenders to end up splitting the remaining games this season. There isn’t a rotation set, but when it’s all said and done on April 6, the current plan is for both goaltenders to see action.

This is a different way of going about things for Lundqvist, who admitted to Heyman how he’s not quite used to it, but understands what’s going on.

“Obviously, I want to play, but I understand the situation we’re in and working for the future,” Lundqvist told Heyman. “So I’ve just got to work hard during practice and try to be ready when they want me to play.”

Lundqvist continues to be completely on board and dedicated to the plan the Rangers set forth when they sent out that letter to the fans over a year ago. He’s made it known his commitment to New York along with his intentions to remain a Ranger for as long as he possibly can. He’s really seemed to embrace the role of being the guy younger players, especially a younger goaltender, turns to when they need it.

Look no further to the end of some of the games Georgiev has led the Rangers to wins in. Most of the wins were the results of excellent goaltending from the 23-year-old, and Lundqvist always seems to be happy and excited for him. When Georgiev made a career-high 55 saves against Toronto, Lundqvist went at got him the puck and greeted with him a big smile and embrace.

While he’s still supporting or understanding the moves the Rangers are making, Lundqvist admitted it’s been a little tough.

“It’s a different situation for sure. I’m used to playing more and getting into a rhythm,” he said. “In the last month and a half, that hasn’t really happened. So you try to adjust to it and do as good as you can.”

Lundqvist will get the call in goal on Thursday night when the Rangers take on Detroit, and he will be looking to translate the hard work he’s put in practice into the game.

Since the beginning of January, “the King” is putting up startling numbers with a 5-8-2 record, a .889 save percentage, and a 3.50 goals-against-average. In those 15 games, his even-strength save percentage dropped from a .927 percent to .917 percent. He’s also allowed 50 goals since Jan. 1 the 15th highest amount of goals allowed in the entire league during that span.

Lundqvist will be making his first start since he allowed three goals on 35 shots to Montreal March 1, and the numbers look to be in his favor. Since the beginning of January and having four or more days between starts, he’s posted a 3-1-0 record with a 2.26 goals-against, and a .934 save percentage. If the numbers indicate anything, he should be set to put up a good outing against a fellow Original 6 team.

With the season coming to a close and the numbers showing Lundqvist is better with more rest, he and Georgiev will continue to rotate games. It benefits both goaltenders giving Lundqvist some time heal up and ready for a potential playoff run next year and it gives Georgiev more precious minutes in the NHL.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy task for someone who has been a number one for so long. Georgiev is playing extremely well and deserves every game he gets down the stretch, the fact that Lundqvist is completely on board with all of this just makes it so much better.

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.