Chris Kreider of the Rangers battles for the puck during...

Chris Kreider of the Rangers battles for the puck during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The more Chris Kreider scores, and the bigger the goals he scores, the more difficult it is to imagine the Rangers dealing him away at the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline, which now is just over a week away.

When Kreider scored the game-winner in Friday’s 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was his seventh goal in the last nine games, his eighth in 12, 10th in 15 and 23rd overall.

That certainly makes him that much more attractive to whatever suitors there are for him — and there are believed to be many — but the way he is playing, and the way his line, with center Mika Zibanejad and right wing Pavel Buchnevich, is playing, how can the Rangers break that up?

Ask Zibanejad why the line is on fire right now (Buchnevich also scored Friday) and he says it’s because the three players have been together, on and off, for four years, since Zibanejad came over from Ottawa in the Derick Brassard deal. Kreider and Buchnevich were Zibanejad’s first linemates when he joined the team.

“I keep coming back to this — we’ve been playing together for quite some time now, as far as our line, and it just feels good,’’ Zibanejad said.

Kreider thinks the trio still hasn’t peaked yet.

“No, I think we’ve got another level,’’ he said. “We just want to keep on working. It’s pretty easy playing with those two guys. I think I could wax poetic about how good those two are all day, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we just want to continue to get better and continue to help the team win hockey games.’’

Last month, team president John Davidson told reporters that the Rangers were going to have to be flexible around the deadline — that they could go from being out of the playoff hunt to in it, or vice versa, in a hurry. Well, with their four straight wins, including a sweep of the three-game road trip, they are in it right now, seven points out of a playoff spot (with two games in hand on both the Blue Jackets and Flyers) going into Sunday’s matinee matchup against the Bruins.

So, at the moment, the Rangers need to win games. Kreider definitely is helping them do that. What kind of message would it send to the rest of the team — and especially to his linemates — if they traded him away now?

Whose turn is it now?

The Rangers’ three-goalie situation continues to be a fascinating topic.

After Igor Shesterkin made 42 saves last Sunday in a 4-1 home win over the Kings, coach David Quinn said he was done trying to figure out how to rotate three goaltenders (Shesterkin, Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist) to keep all of them sharp, and added that he was just going to play the best guy.

Then, after Shesterkin put up another 42-save performance in another 4-1 win Tuesday in Winnipeg, Quinn answered a question about whether he was the No. 1 goalie by saying, “Yes . . . right now, that’s the situation we’re in because of his play, for sure.’’

The Rangers weren’t happy when a couple of newspapers (including Newsday) took that as a declaration that Shesterkin officially was the No. 1. And the plot thickened when Shesterkin’s ankle injury opened the door for Georgiev to play both ends of the back-to-back in Minnesota and Columbus. The Rangers beat Minnesota in a shootout, and after making 36 saves in Friday’s win over Columbus, Georgiev said he felt much sharper in Friday’s game after playing Thursday.

When Quinn was asked if his thinking on his No. 1 goaltender had changed, he joked that he was thinking of calling up a fourth goaltender, because the team is 10-5 since it began carrying three goalies.

“I really feel like we’ve got three No. 1 goalies, and at any time, one of them’s going to emerge and go on a run,’’ Quinn said. “I’ve been through this before as a coach, where you’ve got good goalies and you tell the guys, ‘All right, whoever’s got the hot streak can be the No. 1.’ ’’

If Shesterkin’s ankle, injured Tuesday in Winnipeg, is OK, Quinn will have a decision to make. But even if he’s ready to go, Georgiev (14-11-1, 3.02 GAA, .911 save percentage) might be the choice to start Sunday against Boston. Two wins in a row suggests he’s the one on the hot streak right now.  





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