Blueshirt opportunity thrills Auld
Veteran NHL goaltender eager to help the team in 'any way he can'
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Auld Talks About Joining the Rangers||Watch|
• RANGERS CLAIM AULD FROM STARS
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
With the NHL trading deadline only three days away, the Rangers found a way to add a potentially important player to their roster without subtracting another on Saturday when the Blueshirts claimed goaltender Alex Auld off re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars.
The 29-year-old Auld now steps into the backup slot behind No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, providing the Rangers a reliable veteran as the club tries to secure one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Prior to Auld’s arrival on Broadway, rookies Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba had been alternating opportunities as Lundqvist’s backup.
|During his years with other NHL teams, new Rangers goaltender Alex Auld always listed Madison Square Garden as his favorite place to play. He'll get that chance as Henrik Lundqvist's backup over the next 20 regular-season games.|
Now that the Rangers have a more experienced netminder behind Lundqvist, the coaching staff may be willing to consider giving their No. 1 an extra night or two off over the final 20 games of the regular season to keep him fresh for the playoff push. Plus, Auld also provides an important insurance policy against any potential injury to Lundqvist.
“I understand that (Henrik) will be in the net most of the nights, and how good he is,” said Auld. “I just want to help, however much that may be.”
Auld had appeared in 21 games with the Stars this season, winning nine games with a 3.00 goals against average and .894 save percentage while playing behind veteran Marty Turco. Just last season, he split time as the No. 1 goalie in Ottawa, recording a 2.47 goals against and solid .911 save percentage over 43 appearances with the Senators.
The Rangers are Auld’s fifth team over the past three seasons and seventh in his National Hockey League career. He was originally Florida’s second round pick (40th overall) in the 1999 draft, and he has played 204 NHL games in total with the Stars, Senators, Panthers, Boston Bruins, Phoenix Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks.
It was with Vancouver during the 2005-06 season in which Auld established himself in the league. That season he appeared in a career-high 67 games, winning a career-best 33.
“The biggest thing is to put your head down and work hard and just try and help in any way you can,” Auld said of his prior experiences fitting in with a new team. “The big thing is to realize is that there are, obviously, bigger things than yourself involved. This team is in a dogfight to make the playoffs, and that is very important here. This is a market that demands success.”
The 6-foot-4 Auld arrives in New York knowing many of the Rangers on the periphery, having played against them over the past several years. However, he only knows two players -- defenseman Marc Staal and center Olli Jokinen -- on a personal level.
Auld lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the home of Marc and his family, with whom he is very well acquainted. And he was a teammate of Jokinen’s with the Panthers during the 2006-07 campaign.
“(Olli) just came here, too, so I didn’t even think of him as a Ranger,” said Auld with a laugh. “I almost forgot until yesterday when one of the guys said that he was going to meet us in Ottawa (on Monday following the Olympics). I’m looking forward to meeting up with him again.”
Auld was joined at his first Rangers’ practice by Lundqvist, who returned from Vancouver on Saturday after representing Sweden in the Olympics. Following a disappointing loss to Marian Gaborik and Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Lundqvist said that he required a couple of days to step away from the intensity of hockey before returning to the Rangers, ready to face the final quarter of the season.
“Well that’s the good thing about not reaching the final, getting a few extra days off,” said Lundqvist, who has played in 54 of the Blueshirts’ 62 games so far this season. “I’d rather play in the final, that’s for sure, but you have to see something positive in this, and that’s getting some extra rest.”
Lundqvist had high praise for the city of Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Games, although he lamented the bounces that did not go Sweden’s way on Wednesday.
But with the Olympics now behind him, and a new partner in goal, Lundqvist is ready for the Rangers’ surge towards the playoffs.
“I’ve played against (Auld) a bunch of times, and he’s good,” said Lundqvist. “He’s a big guy who covers the net, a butterfly goalie. It’s a good pickup for us.”