GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Igor Shesterkin, whose stellar play in the minor leagues earned him a promotion to the NHL in early January, will get the first start in net for the Rangers after the All-Star break when the Blueshirts play the Detroit Red Wings on Friday in the front end of a home-and-home.
“Well, I had the choice to play a goalie who’s been playing, and played two [AHL] games, or play a goalie who’s been on the beach for nine days,’’ coach David Quinn said after the Rangers returned to practice Thursday for the first time since Jan. 21. “So I chose to play the goalie who’s played two games and had been playing hockey.’’
That goalie was Shesterkin, who had been assigned to AHL Hartford during the break and who started and won Hartford’s games Friday and Saturday, allowing three goals on 62 shots. Henrik Lundqvist, the franchise icon whose playing time has been dramatically reduced since the Rangers began carrying three goaltenders, will start Saturday night in Detroit.
“It’s been a while with the break here and sitting out a few games,’’ Lundqvist said when asked how anxious he is to play again. “So yeah, of course I look forward to it. It’s a good challenge to me to try to play on top of my game, even though I haven’t seen a lot of action over the last few weeks.’’
Lundqvist’s last game was Jan. 11, when he was the starter in the Rangers’ 5-2 loss in St. Louis. That game was the only appearance he has made since Shesterkin initially was called up Jan. 6. Shesterkin started three of the Rangers’ next seven games and Alexandar Georgiev, who owned stellar numbers against the Islanders, started the three games the Rangers played against the Isles in a nine-day span.
“Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation for the goalies or the coach or anybody, really,’’ Quinn said of having three goalies. “But I think they’ve all done a great job handling it. They all want to play. I want ’em [to want] to play; I want ’em to be [ticked] 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.’’
“We’re three guys who want to play,’’ Lundqvist said. “So we support each other and try to make the best of it right now.’’
The Rangers (23-21-4, 50 points) are 11 points out of a playoff spot with 34 games remaining.
“Our approach is to put ourselves in the best position to win a hockey game tomorrow night,’’ Quinn said. “It really is that simple, and we are that short-sighted. That’s really all it comes down to.’’
Notes & quotes: C Ryan Strome left midway through practice. Quinn said he was suffering from the flu but expects him to play Friday . . . Quinn changed up his defense pairs, elevating rookie Ryan Lindgren to the top pair next to Jacob Trouba. Rookie Adam Fox now will play with Brady Skjei. Marc Staal and Tony DeAngelo remain together . . . Artemi Panarin, who missed the last game with an upper-body injury, practiced and is “100 percent’’ healthy, Quinn said.