Igor Shesterkin is back and will start in goal Thursday when the Rangers face the Flyers in the opener of the two-game set in Philadelphia. Shesterkin missed 10 games with a strained groin suffered late in a game March 4 against the Devils.
"He is expected to start on Thursday, and, yeah, no problems,’’ Rangers acting coach Kris Knoblauch said Wednesday. "He's 100%, and we're excited to have him back.’’
Shesterkin had one net to himself in Wednesday’s practice, Knoblauch said, while the other two goalies, Alexandar Georgiev and Keith Kinkaid, shared time in the net at the other end. Kinkaid was moved to the taxi squad Tuesday when Shesterkin came off injured reserve, which suggests that Georgiev will serve as the backup goaltender against the Flyers.
With the Rangers going on the road for three games in four days (Thursday night and Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia; Sunday afternoon in Washington against the Capitals), there is a chance all three goaltenders could get a game on the trip. Shesterkin is 6-7-1 on the season, with a 2.31 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
Vitali Kravtsov practiced with the full team Wednesday for the first time since coming to New York after his KHL season ended March 11. The 21-year-old Russian skated as the extra forward and will not dress for Thursday’s game.
"I don't know what the timetable is for him,’’ Knoblauch said. "That'll be (GM Jeff Gorton) and (coach David Quinn) who will decide that.’’
"Obviously, he’s got high end skill, and had a pretty good year in the KHL,’’ forward Ryan Strome said of Kravtsov. "Our team's been playing pretty good hockey right now, so, if we're going to add a little bit that'd be nice. But we'll see what happens.’’
Strome said Kravtsov, the first of three first round picks by the Rangers in 2018, will need to learn the Rangers’ defensive and offensive systems "on the fly.’’
"It's not an easy thing that he's gonna have to do, but he's got the skill level to do it,’’ Strome said.
Knoblauch will coach on Thursday
Knoblauch, who has served as acting coach for four games, with Quinn and his bench assistants all out due to COVID-19 protocol, is going on the trip to Philadelphia and will coach Thursday. Beyond that, he couldn’t say.
"The plan is that I am coaching the next game,’’ he said. "After that, we'll see.’’
Quinn and assistant coaches Jacques Martin, David Oliver and Greg Brown went into Covid protocol March 17. Knoblauch speaks to Quinn every day, and said, "I know he's feeling fine.’’
"Maybe a little under the weather the first couple days,’’ he said of Quinn. "(But) he’s doing quite well right now.’’
F Phillip DiGiuseppe did a cardiac screening Wednesday and if all went well, was set to join the team in Philadelphia. DiGiuseppe went on the COVID-19 list March 14 . . . D Anthony Bitetto, who played two games for AHL Hartford last week as he makes his way back from a lower body injury, practiced and made the trip to Philadelphia. He is currently the team’s seventh defenseman, Knoblauch said.