Artemi Panarin won’t be parachuting in from his leave of absence Sunday to rejoin the Rangers as they take on the Boston Bruins in the second game of their two-game weekend set at Madison Square Garden.
And with the team not practicing Saturday, Filip Chytil isn’t likely to come off injured reserve and step into the lineup, either. Kaapo Kakko remains on the COVID list and is unavailable for now.
But if the same group of Rangers that beat the Big Bad Bruins, 6-2, on Friday night can replicate their physical, mature performance from that game, the Blueshirts might have a chance to win again.
"That’s something we talked about last night, right after the game,’’ coach David Quinn said Saturday. "We want to continue to feed off not only the win but the way we won.’’
But how, Quinn was asked, can he get his team to play the way it did Friday — with the right amount of physicality, defensive responsibility, net-crashing and opportunistic finishing — for a second straight game?
"Well, I think that’s the challenge for every coach in this league,’’ he said. "I think what makes teams successful is the consistency, and the type of game we had [Friday] night. And every organization and team is looking for that.
"That’s what makes the elite teams elite; they do those things over and over and over again. It’s really what separates the elite players and really good NHL players from the average players. And it’s really what separates the great teams from the average teams.’’
Quinn noted that after the Rangers (7-8-3) put together a masterpiece in last Saturday’s 4-1 road win over Washington, they turned in what he called "a stinker’’ in the next game, a 4-3 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Wednesday. He also knows that Boston, which is 11-5-2 but has lost two straight and four of its last five, will be highly motivated Sunday.
To be fair, the Rangers’ loss to Philly was the first game they played after Panarin took his leave following the publication of a story in Russia in which a former coach of his in the KHL accused him of beating a woman in Riga, Latvia, in 2011. The Rangers also had to play the Flyers without defenseman K’Andre Miller, who was placed on the COVID list that day.
Miller came off the list Friday and played against the Bruins, and on Sunday, Quinn should have the same lineup available that played Friday night. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who made 31 saves Friday, will start his second straight game, Quinn said.
Quinn said "it’s always a competition’’ between Georgiev (3-2-2 with a 2.81 GAA, a .901 save percentage and one shutout) and Igor Shesterkin (4-6-1 with a 2.40 GAA and a .919 save percentage) for playing time.
After a slow start, Shesterkin has been excellent in his last eight starts (4-4 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage), but he is 1-4 despite a 2.40 GAA and .926 save percentage in his last five. Georgiev has won his last two starts and is 2-0-2 in his last four.
"The plan is to play the guy that gives you the best chance to win,’’ Quinn said. "And Georgie’s played well. He’s got six out of [a possible] eight points, and, I thought he had a good night [Friday] night. So give him a chance again tomorrow. He hasn’t played two in a row, I don’t think, in a while, so I just wanted to give him an opportunity to follow up what he did [Friday] night.’’
Notes & quotes: The Bruins claimed 6-6 defenseman Jarred Tinordi off waivers from Nashville. Tinordi, the son of former Rangers defenseman Mark Tinordi, has no points and four penalty minutes in seven games this season.