In the moments after the 6-2 victory over the Islanders on Monday night, Rangers coach David Quinn was asked if he was tempted to give goaltender Alexandar Georgiev a second consecutive start, in the teams' return match on Thursday at Nassau Coliseum.
“Yeah, it is tempting,’’ Quinn said. “Yes.’’
Quinn wasn’t ready to announce if he would, indeed, start Georgiev on Thursday. And the Rangers didn’t practice Tuesday, so the coach had an extra night to sleep on it. But Georgiev, who made 32 saves Monday, now has beaten the Islanders three times in four appearances (3-1-0), with a 1.21 goals-against average, one shutout and a .936 save percentage (four goals allowed on 94 shots).
The Rangers continue to carry three goaltenders on the roster, ever since they called up Igor Shesterkin from the minors on Jan. 6. They have played four games since then, with Shesterkin starting two (and winning both); Henrik Lundqvist starting one, and Georgiev one. At Monday’s morning skate, Quinn said that was the plan all along.
“And then,’’ he said, “we were really going to kind of sit down and figure out what the next step is.’’
So now what?
The Rangers have three games remaining before the All-Star break/bye week. If Quinn starts Georgiev again Thursday, it means Shesterkin will have gone a week since his last game. And Lundqvist will have played one game in two weeks.
Georgiev (11-9-1, with a 3.11 GAA, two shutouts, and a .911 save percentage this season) is the one caught in the middle of the conundrum. Lundqvist, the face of the franchise for the last 15 years, isn’t going anywhere. And Shesterkin, drafted in 2014 to be Lundqvist’s heir apparent, has the option of returning to Russia if the Rangers don’t keep him in New York. The Rangers certainly don’t want that.
Georgiev, 23, was undrafted and signed after a tryout in 2017. He is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer. He can’t be sent to the minor leagues without going through waivers, so that isn’t an option. Shesterkin, 24, can go down, and with the All-Star break coming up next week, he may go down to get some ice time. The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24.
Notes & quotes: D Libor Hajek was sent to AHL Hartford. Hajek had played in the team’s first 27 games but sprained his right knee in the Dec. 5 win over the Blue Jackets, causing him to miss the next 16 games. Marc Staal’s upper body injury forced Hajek into the lineup Saturday against St. Louis, but he struggled in the game, and when Staal was able to play Monday against the Islanders, Hajek was a healthy scratch . . . The Rangers announced they will hold their annual Casino Night fundraiser on Monday, Feb. 17. Players, coaches, management and select alumni will be present. Fans interested in buying tickets can get information from the team’s website.