Rangers expect Hank's return on Thursday

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault expects to start goalie Henrik Lundqvist on Thursday against St. Louis. Lundqvist missed Tuesday's loss to the Islanders with an illness.

"As far as I know unless something changes between now and tomorrow morning, he should be good to go," Vigneault said after Wednesday's practice.

Lundqvist said his illness sprung on him around 4 a.m. Tuesday, and he let the team know he probably wouldn't be able to make it to morning skate. Around noon, the decision was made that he shouldn't come to the game. The Rangers started backup Cam Talbot and lost 5-3.

The goalie said his mindset is to prepare like he's starting Wednesday, although he would wait until he gets the official confirmation.

"Feel a lot better today, hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back to normal," Lundqvist said. "Had a good practice today, we'll see how I feel this afternoon."

Lundqvist is having a down year, but he's been playing his best hockey of the season. He's won five of his last six games to improve to 17-17-3, and has yielded two goals or less in each of those games. He recorded his second shutout in a 1-0 win over Detroit on Jan. 16.

Vigneault indicated Wednesday he will start Lundqvist in both of the Stadium Series games to be played at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26 and Jan. 29. The Rangers play the Devils on Sunday before facing the Islanders in the latter game. Both are road games for the Rangers.

"If I was a betting man and he tells me he's feeling well -- the games are spread out, he should be good to go," Vigneault said.

STADIUM GAMES STILL NOT HERE: Although Lundqvist practiced in his specially designed Stadium Series pads and goalie mask, he and the Rangers are not zeroed in on the Stadium Series games just yet.

"Right now we're not focusing on the outdoor games. It's tomorrow," Lundqvist said. "One of the best teams in the league we're playing. They're going to come in and they're hungry. That's all we're focused on. You have to be ready and play a complete game to have a chance to win."

St. Louis is the final opponent the Rangers face before playing the two Stadium series games. The Blues have 71 points, which is more than any team in the Eastern Conference. The Blues are coming off an embarrassing 7-1 loss on Tuesday to the Devils.

"You learn how to stay focused. Part of being a pro is not looking too far ahead," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "Obviously everyone in here is excited and can't wait to get to Yankee Stadium and play, but these two points are just as important as they are at Yankee Stadium so we have to focus on St. Louis."

ROSTER MOVE: The Rangers have placed goalie David LeNeveu on waivers as they hope to send him to AHL affiliate Hartford. LeNeveu was signed Tuesday to backup Talbot with Lundqvist not available.