Antti Raanta was under no illusion regarding his role as the Rangers’ No. 2 goaltender, but he had been desiring more opportunities to play, and the keys to the team’s net are his for as long as Henrik Lundqvist needs to recover from his strained hip muscle.
That doesn’t mean that Raanta suddenly changes how he approaches the game. The Finn is keeping his focus on his most immediate task at any moment, and after playing two straight nights Sunday and Monday that next task is preparing in Thursday’s practice for the Panthers’ Friday visit to MSG.
“It’s useless to start thinking too much ahead of myself or the schedule,” Raanta said earlier this week. “I just try to do the same thing I’ve been doing the whole year, even though now you know you’re gonna play a little bit more. There’s not gonna be much practice time, but we have been practicing a lot this year so hopefully everything we have done there is now — when you play, you don’t think that much. You just go there and just enjoy things and enjoy the challenge.”
On Saturday, Lundqvist was ruled out for two-to-three weeks and shut down for 72 hours before beginning his rehab process. If he’s ready at the early side of that timetable, he could perhaps return while the Rangers are in California March 25-28.
When Raanta’s number has been called upon this season — including for four straight games in December when Lundqvist was healthy — Raanta has been more than capable.
In 21 starts, Raanta is 14-5-0 with a 2.13 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He wasn’t much at fault for what happened in Tuesday’s home loss to the Lightning, who scored three times on just 16 shots.
“They didn’t shoot at all, so kind of weird game,” Raanta said. “Kind of a tough game for a goalie to play. Sometimes the games are like this. Sometimes you get 50 shots, sometimes you get 20.”
When Raanta played on Feb. 13 in Columbus, his first start since Jan. 14 after a lower-body injury and his first wire-to-wire game since Dec. 29, he made 30 saves in a 3-2 win. Even when his playing time was sporadic he stayed sharp, but Raanta does say he on occasion can overthink when not playing often.
“Sometimes when you’re not playing too much you go to practice, you think a little bit too much, you try a little bit too much, and when you get games in a short period of time you just forget the thinking,” Raanta said. “You just go there and have fun. Especially when you win, it’s much more fun, but you just try to do your thing.”
Published at Wed, 15 Mar 2017 23:12:17 +0000