New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Igor Shesterkin is not having his best season. Jonathan Quick is having a banner season. And Rangers coach Peter Laviolette acknowledged that Wednesday when he opted to start the 38-year-old Quick in goal at Madison Square Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Quick’s in net tonight,’’ Laviolette said, matter-of-factly, at the Rangers' morning skate at the Garden.

The move to start Quick, who is 11-4-2 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, was something of an eyebrow-raiser given that Shesterkin, an All-Star, is the clear No. 1 goalie and Quick is the backup. Starting Quick meant he will have started the Rangers’ last three games. He also started the last game before the All-Star break (a 7-2 win over Ottawa Jan. 27) and the first game out of the break (a 2-1 win Monday against the Colorado Avalanche).

Quick was magnificent against Colorado, making 32 saves and giving the Rangers a chance against the high-octane Avalanche. But Laviolette said his decision to start him again Wednesday was not made because he had played so well Monday.

“It was a tentative plan to have it that way,’’ Laviolette said of Quick starting the first two games after the break. “I do think [Quick's] earned it. His last three games, his numbers are through the roof. He's got a [.944] save percentage and a [1.65] goals-against [average].’’

Shesterkin is 19-12-1 with a 2.86 GAA and .899 save percentage, but he's 4-5-1, with a 3.24 GAA and .863 save percentage in his last 10 starts. Laviolette insisted he remains the Rangers’ No. 1 goaltender.

“Shesty's our guy,’’ the coach said. “This was a chance for us to work with him . . . he's with Benny [Allaire, the goaltending coach]. He gets more video, more reps. He can focus on his game, and just getting really dialed in for a stretch run."

Shesterkin was one of only three players who skated at the Garden in the morning, along with defenseman Zac Jones and forward Jake Leschyshyn, who were to be the healthy scratches for the game. And the 28-year-old Russian seemed OK with the decision to go with Quick over him against Tampa Bay.

“Right now, I could have more time to work with Benny, so it's good,’’ he said. “I knew that before [the All-Star break], and I’ll just keep working. I trust them. They trust me. So this is just the process.’’

The decision was made despite the fact that Shesterkin has stellar career numbers against Tampa Bay — 6-0-1 with one shutout, a 1.40 GAA and .956 save percentage, including a 5-1 win in Tampa on Dec. 30. Quick is 8-6-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay, with a 2.47 GAA and .913 save percentage and one shutout.

The decision also meant Shesterkin missed out on a chance to match up against Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, something he always enjoys doing.

“Hopefully we can see each other in the playoffs,’’ Shesterkin said.

Laviolette wouldn’t reveal whether Shesterkin will be back in net for the Rangers’ next game Friday in Chicago against the last-place team in the league. That would be exactly two weeks since his last start for the Rangers, though he did play in the All-Star Game last Saturday. If he doesn’t start Friday in Chicago, he would only have two games next week — Monday vs. Calgary and Thursday vs. Montreal — before the outdoor game at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 18 against the Islanders.

Regardless of whether he was disappointed to not play Wednesday, Shesterkin was very complimentary of what Quick has done this season and said he was happy for him.

“He's outstanding,’’ Shesterkin said of Quick. “It’s so great to see him, how he plays every day, how he battles, how he stops the puck, how he’s focused. I'm so happy.’’

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