NEW YORK -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault knows who will be between the pipes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
But he’s not sharing the secret.
Vigneault was asked whether he’d consider returning to 26-year-old backup goaltender Cam Talbot on Monday night following Sunday night’s 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, but he wouldn’t divulge the answer.
“I know exactly who I’m playing. I just haven’t told my goaltenders,” Vigneault said.
In his first start since Dec. 2, Talbot was again a steady presence in net for the Blueshirts, turning away 24 of 25 shots faced from the Wild. Picking up his seventh win of the season, Talbot improved to 7-2-0 overall. Starter Henrik Lundqvist backed up after making a season-high eight consecutive starts.
“He came in here tonight and did what we expect of our goalies and gave us a chance to win,” Vigneault said.
A lot has changed since Vigneault was last confronted with this scenario -- namely, Lundqvist was awarded a seven-year contract extension worth $59.5 million -- but the team has irrefutably been much better in front of Talbot than Lundqvist.
Lundqvist’s game has regressed, a development that has contributed to the team’s abysmal performance during this nine-game homestand.
Prior to Sunday’s match, the Rangers had surrendered four goals or more in six of the previous seven games. Lundqvist is 10-15-2 this season with some rather underwhelming and uncharacteristic numbers for the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner: a 2.77 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Talbot boasts a GAA of 1.74 and a save percentage of .934.
“Obviously, Hank is the proven No. 1 [goaltender] and he’s going to get the bulk of the games,” Talbot said after Sunday's game. “He’s shown that over the bulk of his career. I knew that coming in; my role is to play once every couple of weeks, and obviously I’m fine with that. I just stay focused and stay ready whenever I get the call.”