It will be the first game they’ve played in more than four months, and naturally, all of the Rangers are excited to finally drop the puck on Wednesday, when they face the Islanders in a dress rehearsal for the qualifying series against the Carolina Hurricanes, which starts Saturday. The fact that the warmup game is against their biggest rival isn’t their main concern, if you listen to Adam Fox.
“I think whenever you play a different team, it's a little different than going against guys on your team who you might ease up against . . . knowing that they're on your team,’’ Fox, the rookie defenseman from Jericho, said on Tuesday’s Zoom call when asked about the opponent for Wednesday’s practice game in Toronto. “It's good for everyone to get a game in [against] a different opponent, and the Islanders are a good team. They have a lot of guys that that work hard and have some good skill, too. For us having this long break, playing a team like that will be good.’’
“It's obviously an exciting time,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said Tuesday. “You could sense the energy and the excitement in our practice today . . . We've been waiting for this for a long time.’’
Quinn has seemed a lot more businesslike with the playoffs approaching. Not only has he not declared who his No. 1 goaltender will be against Carolina, but on Tuesday he wouldn’t reveal which two goalies will dress for Wednesday’s game, claiming he hadn’t spoken to the goalies yet to inform them of who will be in uniform.
The Rangers have three goaltenders in Toronto: Igor Shesterkin, Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. Shesterkin was the No. 1 goalie when play was halted March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but with Lundqvist having dominant numbers against the Hurricanes, there was some question as to whether Quinn might consider starting Lundqvist against Carolina.
Throughout the two-week training camp the Rangers had before going to Toronto, all indications were that Shesterkin will remain No. 1. And in their final practice Sunday, before they left for Toronto, Shesterkin and Lundqvist were the goalies for the main group, with Georgiev skating with the extras.
Quinn said last week he won’t make an official announcement on his starting goaltender until Saturday, or perhaps Friday. But he has said all along he won’t forget what the players had done in the two-and-a-half months before play stopped. Shesterkin was 10-2 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in that time.
Asked if anything he sees Wednesday might alter his thinking on any players, Quinn suggested that isn’t likely.
“Listen, you're always taking note of what you see, so it's tough to forget something you've already seen,’’ he said. “[But] it's not just about one day. It's about this long stretch we've had over the last two and a half weeks, and certainly tomorrow night will be another part of the evaluation process.’’
Notes & quotes: Quinn said Brendan Lemieux will be the extra forward and Libor Hajek the extra defenseman dressed Wednesday. Lemieux is suspended for the first two games of the Carolina series, but would be eligible to return for Game 3.