GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Henrik Lundqvist, sidelined since Feb. 2 with a vascular injury to his neck, bowed out of his first full practice with the team Friday morning to be with his wife, who is expecting their second daughter.
Lundqvist posted a happy announcement on his Twitter account late Friday night: "My little girl is here. Everyone is doing great. She did not get the memo of my returning to pratice today so we'll try that again."
Head coach Alain Vigneault said that the goaltender would not join the team, which left for Raleigh in the afternoon. They face the Hurricanes Saturday at 7 p.m.
The change means that Lundqvist now will not practice with his teammates until Tuesday, in the morning skate before hosting the Los Angeles Kings, and Wednesday, an off day.
Both Lundqvist, who was medically cleared to return on Monday, and Vigneault have said that he would need several full practices to take high shots and adjust to screens and the speed of the game. He has been practicing almost daily in recent weeks, but only against assistant coaches.
"That (Tuesday) morning skate, we're on the ice anywhere for 20 to 30 minutes and we're doing a lot of game-situation stuff, so you get a lot out of that, we'll see how he does," Vigneault said. But he will not change the practice schedule Monday to accommodate Lundqvist. "We're playing back to back (Saturday and Sunday). . . . We very rarely (practice) after back to back games," he said. "So you've got to look at the overall picture and the team, you've got to do what's best for them."
It still appears that with the schedule, Lundqvist's first appearance wouldn't come earlier than next weekend, when the Rangers face the Bruins in Boston and host the Capitals.
Cam Talbot will start against the Hurricanes (3-5-2 in the last 10) on Saturday, and possibly Sunday at home against the Anaheim Ducks, but Vigneault did not reveal Sunday's starter. It could be rookie Mackenzie Skapski, who won both his NHL starts against the Sabres in Buffalo, but Talbot, having not played since Wednesday's 1-0 loss to the Blackhawks, could also start.
Kevin Hayes, who was moved to the second line wing, will return to center in Raleigh, flanked by Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast. The line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash stays intact and J.T. Miller joins Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. James Sheppard, who played center against Chicago, drops to wing on the fourth line with Dom Moore and Tanner Glass.
"There's no doubt that for our team, with Kevin in the middle, gives us three lines that I consider can play a little more offensive hockey," Vigneault said.
Defenseman Kevin Klein, whose left forearm was fractured by a shot from Washington's Alex Ovechkin nine days ago, said he is continuing lower-body workouts and hopes to begin skating next week. The initial diagnosis had him out three to four weeks.