NEW YORK – Henrik Lundqvist walked into the packed press conference room at Madison Square Garden in an immaculate three-piece suit sans jacket, with his hair perfectly coiffed.
Had you not known his situation, you’d have never guessed the ailment he’s battling. Perhaps that was the point of his surprise press conference Sunday afternoon, held less than an hour before his teammates were set to drop the puck against the Dallas Stars.
Lundqvist, the Rangers’ most important player and one of the best goaltenders in the world, suffered what he called a sprained blood vessel last Saturday against Carolina when he took a shot to the throat. After dealing with a stiff neck and headaches brought on by difficulty breathing in the immediate aftermath, he felt better and was cleared to play Monday night’s game against the Panthers, which the Rangers won.
But after Monday’s game, he said he started suffering some “pretty tough” headaches, and was sent to get tests on Tuesday. A number of doctors who initially looked at his scans couldn’t find the issue. It took a specialist to notice something amiss, sending him for a conclusive second test, which indicated the vascular injury that will force him to miss at least three weeks, likely closer to four-to-six weeks.
“I was really happy the staff and doctors that worked on this found it,” Lundqvist said. “Consequences could have been pretty bad. But it was disappointing because I want to play.”
Those consequences could have been severe.
“If I would have kept playing, I run the big risk of having a stroke,” Lundqvist told reporters. “That’s why you have to make sure you play this one safe. It’s not a sore shoulder or something like that.”
“Good to see him, I saw him the other day at the training center,” said defenseman Marc Staal of Lundqvist. “He’s in good spirits, and it’s nice to see him.”
Lundqvist can do nothing but very light cardiovascular training over the next few weeks, and otherwise allow the blood vessel time to heal. There will be no rushing back.
“I won’t play until I’m ready to play,” Lundqvist said, before explaining that he won’t be at an increased risk for a stroke once he’s recovered. “I’m going to heal 100%. To have so many doctors involved in this, it feels good as a person but also as a player to feel that support. We just need to make sure we do this right.”
He plans on getting another check-up in about three weeks, at which point his next course of action will be decided.
“You can’t take a risk on this,” Lundqvist said. “If this was a sore shoulder, I’d probably be playing in a week. Here, I just have to listen to the doctors because it’s that serious. I feel great walking around, doing different things. But you don’t want to push this injury as long as it’s there. My plan is to come back and be super-excited and ready to play the last push of the season and the playoffs.”
Rangers fall in OT to Stars
Meanwhile after Lundqvist spoke, his teammates fell in overtime to the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in an uneven effort. They were unacceptable in the first period and so-so in the second before coming alive in the third, tying the game with 1:20 left and outshooting the Stars 20-2 in the final 20 minutes.
“We had a couple guys, obviously, that were not putting their ‘A’ game on the ice,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who benched the high-scoring trio of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Martin St. Louis for a large chunk of the second period. “The third period, we had the puck basically the whole period, were able to tie it up, and were able to get a point.”
“We had a rough start. The first period was ugly,” said Staal. “We got better as the game went on. On a back-to-back, we have to find a way to win a game. We just came up a little short.”
The Rangers suffered their first overtime loss of the season. They had lost four times in shootouts, with the last shootout loss coming on Nov. 15.