Rangers fans can breathe a little easier. Things could have turned out much worse for star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had he continued to play through an injury he described as "a sprained blood vessel."
Lundqvist addressed the media before Sunday's game against the visiting Dallas Stars at Madison Square Garden. The 32-year-old netminder admitted he would have put himself at risk of suffering a stroke had he continued playing.
"If I keep playing now, there's a risk of having a stroke," Lundqvist said.
Lundqvist spoke of his relief after doctors were able to discover the exact nature of the injury after he began experiencing increased headaches on Tuesday. He was hit in the throat with the puck during the second period of the Rangers' Jan. 31 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. . Lundqvist finished the game and also played the entirety of the Rangers' home victory over the Florida Panthers on Feb. 2.
A specialist detected the full extent of the injury after running a second scan.
"I'm really happy they found it," Lundqvist said. "The consequences could have been bad."
He will not resume playing until he is 100 percent cleared to play and 100 percent healthy.
"You can't take a risk on this," Lundqvist said. "I have to listen to the doctors because it's that serious. I won't play until I'm ready to play. I'm going to heal 100 percent."
Lundqvist said doctors will reevaluate him in two-to-three weeks. In the short term, Lundqvist will get plenty of rest, continue taking Aspirin and work out on a stationary bike. He might be cleared to begin light skating in one or two weeks, though that would not include him facing any shots.
"My plan is to come back and be super-excited and ready to play the last push of the season and the playoffs," Lundqvist said.
Lundqvist is 25-11-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He has collected three shutouts through 39 games this season.
The Rangers announced on Friday that Lundqvist will miss "at least three weeks." For now, it's 27-year-old Cam Talbot's responsibility of keeping the Rangers pushing rival Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in a packed Metropolitan Divison race.
"Cam has been playing really well," Lundqvist said. "We all have confidence in him, and that's really a good thing."
Not including Sunday's game, Talbot is 5-5-1 with a 2.22 GAA and a .920 SV%. He has recorded three shutouts.
Prior to the start of Sunday's game, the Rangers sit in fourth place behind the Pens, Isles and Caps at 64 points. The Rangers have played 50 games. That's three games less than the Caps and Pens. They have two games in hand over the Isles. At the start of Sunday, the first-place Penguins have collected 68 points through 53 games.
Talbot appears to have what it takes to keep the Rangers on track. If Talbot can keep up his fine performances between the pipes, a healthy Lundqvist should return in time to carry the Rangers over the final regular season hurdle while gunning for a high division finish.
That being said, the most important thing is that a life-threatening injury was avoided thanks to the specialist who handed the second scan. Lundqvist will be able to eventually resume his career as normal. This should ease the worries of any Rangers fan.
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