Henrik Lundqvist was one of the most outspoken players last April when the NHL announced it would not send its players to this year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, voicing his displeasure about the "missed opportunity" to showcase hockey's best players on a global stage, an experience NHL players have relished since the league first took a break for the 1998 Games.
His interest in this year's men's Olympic hockey tournament might've waned if not for the inclusion of his twin brother Joel on Sweden's Olympic roster for the first time.
"At least one Lundqvist will be going, so that's nice," said Henrik, who represented Sweden in each of the last three Winter Olympics.
So Lundqvist will watch games and highlights when he's not busy preparing or playing in goal for the Rangers, who return to action Thursday against Toronto at the Garden, just as he tries to keep up with how Joel is doing with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League.
Lundqvist, who returned to practice Wednesday after being given an extra day off following All-Star weekend in Tampa, will be completely invested in trying to help the Blueshirts claw back into playoff position, but the sting from the league's decision to keep its players from going to South Korea still lingers. Lundqvist has gushed about the experiences of playing in Turin, Vancouver and Sochi. The feeling of winning a gold medal at the 2006 Games is something he'll always cherish. He wasn't expecting his 2014 experience to be his last.
"I've been there three times, and every time you go it's an experience for life," Lundqvist said. "I remember all three destinations I've been to, what it meant and the whole experience. It feels like they've taken that away from you. It's not a good feeling, but we've been dealing with it, so you move on."
Ryan McDonagh, who at 2014 Sochi Olympics represented Team USA for its fourth-place finish, said without hesitation that he will watch the Olympics when possible. He's played with some American players who are heading to Pyeongchang, including former Ranger and Long Island native Matt Gilroy. McDonagh's also looking forward to watching Canadian defenseman Cody Goloubef, who was McDonagh's college roommate at University of Wisconsin.
"It's obviously a great competition regardless if we're playing or not," he said.
The disappointment does remain for McDonagh, regardless of whether he would've been on the team or not, he said. There are a number of NHL players who at least have memories of playing in previous Olympics to hold onto, but young stars such as American Auston Matthews and Canadian Connor McDavid have yet to receive that opportunity.
"The up-and-coming players that dream of playing in the Olympics, that's not available to them right now, which is pretty sad to think about," McDonagh said.
Chris Kreider (blood clot, rib resection) has begun lightly skating and Kevin Shattenkirk (left meniscus surgery) is conditioning with his upper body but remains on crutches, Alain Vigneault said. Both players remain out indefinitely.