In March, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan wouldn't rule out veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist returning for the playoffs even though the 39-year-old underwent open-heart surgery to repair an issue early this year.
Via an interview that aired on NHL Network on Wednesday, Lundqvist said he's set for an examination later this month that he hopes will clear him to eventually resume his career after he first returned to the ice for practices and skating work in February.
"I love it. I want to compete, and it's going to come down to testing and conversations with the doctors," Lundqvist said of playing, per Tom Gulitti of the league's official website. "It's coming up, so we're getting close to that point. And until then, I just keep grinding, and then we'll see what happens."
Lundqvist spent his first 15 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers but then signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Capitals in October.
"I'd been aware of a heart condition for 15 years that I had a leaky valve and at some point it needed to be fixed, but over the course of a few months things changed and the leak got worse and my aorta started to get too big and the pressure in the heart was too high," he said. "But all along, I was like, 'This is going to work. We're going to make it work.' … And I get the call from one of the specialists that it was part of the process and it's like, 'I'm sorry, but your tests came back worse than we thought.'"
The Capitals sit atop the NHL East standings and are tied with the New York Islanders on 54 points. The top four teams from every division qualify for the playoffs.
"I see it. I see it," Lundqvist said of envisioning a return to in-game competition, whether it be with the Capitals this spring or later down the road. "But in a way, it's kind of out of my control. I still have to listen and talk to the experts. Other than that, it's just be happy."