Henrik Lundqvist felt strong Kobe Bryant connection: ‘Competitor’

Henrik Lundqvist never met Kobe Bryant, but the 37-year-old Swedish netminder told The Post he was still feeling the effects on Thursday of the 41-year-old Lakers legend’s death in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Los Angeles that claimed nine lives.

“I can’t tell you exactly why. I was trying to figure that out myself when I was talking to a friend of mine about that this morning,” said Lundqvist, who posted a tweet in Bryant’s honor shortly after the news broke on Sunday. “I think the answer is that I see the qualities in him as a competitor and his work ethic that I identify with, and I think a lot of professional athletes feel that way.”

“I can count on one hand the players in other sports I’ve made a point to watch from afar over the last 10 or 15 years, and Kobe is one of them. It was him as a competitor, the way he carried himself and obviously what he accomplished. I admired that.

“I’m not a huge basketball fan, but he had so much impact away from the court in so many different areas. You can see how much he meant to so many people and how much this has affected people. He was special.”

Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist and Kobe BryantGetty Images,UPI

Lundqvist, meanwhile, will start Saturday’s game in Detroit after Igor Shesterkin gets the call for Friday’s Garden opener of the home-and-home against the Red Wings. It will mark the Swede’s first start since Jan. 11 and second since Jan. 2. Shesterkin played a pair of games for the AHL Wolf Pack last weekend while the Blueshirts were on their extended hiatus. Alex Georgiev won’t dress Friday and will likely be the backup on Saturday.

“With the break and sitting out a few [before that], of course I’m looking forward to this,” Lundqvist said. “You miss the action. You miss being out there. I’m going to try to be at the top of my game.”

There is still no grand design as how the Rangers are going to approach this three-goaltender monte leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline (if not beyond). But coach David Quinn, who said he’s going with this opening rotation because “I could go with the goalie who played two games or the goalie who was on the beach for nine days,” talked about the “constant open dialogue” with the netminding trio.

“Obviously it’s not an ideal situation for the goalies, the coach or anybody, really, but I think they’ve all done a great job handling it. They all want to play, I want them all to want to play, I want them to be pissed off when they’re not in there, but they don’t let it get in the way of their work ethic and they don’t let it get in the way of what goes on in that locker room.”

Lundqvist said that the three goaltenders have been “supportive of one another.”

“We’re making the best out of it,” said the King. “It’s day by day. The big picture, we’ll see what happens.”


Artemi Panarin, who missed the final game before the break tending to an upper-body issue, was unencumbered at practice and will be in the lineup against the Wings.

“You never know, but we were confident that he was going to come back 100 percent,” Quinn said.


Ryan Strome, Panarin’s center, left midway through practice with an apparent touch of the flu but is expected to play Friday, according to Quinn.


Pavel Buchnevich skated on the right with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, who said the speed-skating event in the All-Star skills competition in which he placed third, “was daunting.”


Jesper Fast was on the right with Panarin and Strome, while Filip Chytil skated between Brendan Lemieux and Kaapo Kakko, and Brett Howden joined the fourth line with Greg McKegg and Brendan Smith.

For more on the Rangers, listen to the latest episode of the “Up In The Blue Seats” podcast:

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