Cam Talbot took part briefly in the Rangers optional morning skate Saturday in Nashville, facing enough shots during drills to break a sweat and get in the flow of preparing for his sixth National Hockey League start later tonight against the Predators. Talbot who has seized the team's No. 2 goaltender position behind Henrik Lundqvist, has won his last four starts and is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals against average on the season.
Along with winning games, Talbot has won the confidence of his head coach and teammates, while solidifying the confidence goaltening coach Benoit Allaire already had in him.
"He's a first year player who is developing and getting better," Alain Vigneault said of Talbot on Saturday. "I don't just look at the performance, I look at what the guy does during practice and how he prepares himself, and he's done everything I would expect a player to do that wants to be the best he can be. He's got a real good rapport with Ben, is working extremely hard in practice, and hopefully he'll just continue to get better. He's been really good, and it's his turn to play tonight."
Winger Carl Hagelin echoed his coach's sentiments about Talbot's work ethic when speaking with reporters following the morning skate.
"That's the reason why he is where he is today," noted Hagelin. "He is one of those guys who's worked hard for everything, and you can see it---he stays after practice and works---and he just wants to get better every day."
After three full seasons in the minor leagues Talbot has played very consistently in the NHL. In five starts Talbot has yet to allow more than two goals in any one game, and has surrendered only eight in total. His last time out Talbot earned is first NHL shutout, stopping all 22 shots in a 1-0 win in Montreal a week ago today.
"He's so calm in the nets, and he's just getting better by the day," stated Hagelin. "He's played quite a few games since he got called up and he's done a great job. The bottom line is that his personality is that he's a very calm guy, but at the same time he's confident."
Added Lundqvist, his goaltending partner, "A lot of times with the team it starts with the confidence in the goalie, and he's brought a lot of poise and that brings confidence from the group, as well. Cam is playing so well he deserves to play, too. It's part of the plan."
That plan of making sure Lundqvist limits his game activity to 62 or so starts this season stays put even when the Rangers No. 1 netminder plays an outstanding game as Lundqvist did in Dallas on Thursday, finishing with 41 saves in the 3-2 victory. Vigneault and Allaire had already targeted this game against the Preds as one of the contests Lundqvist would not play in the midst of nine games in 15 nights.
"Hank has been playing extremely well for quite some time, but when we looked at the schedule and nine in 15 and six in nine with back-to-backs we identified this one for Cam and I wasn't changing my mind," explained the head coach.
Lundqvist remains supportive of the coaching staff's game plan---one not unlike the 2011-12 plan which saw Marty Biron spell Lundqvst 20 times over the course of the season.
"The last couple of year that's something we've been trying to do," Lundqvist said of cutting back on his workload. "With the Olympic year, too, and a long playoffs, it's a smart move; but I do want to play, though in the long run I know two years ago it worked out really well."
After tonight's game the Rangers will play four games in six days, including a back-to-back Friday in Boston and Satutday at home against Vancouver.
"We know we are going to get good goaltending no matter who is back there," said Brian Boyle.