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With Shesterkin out, Georgiev steps in for Rangers

New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev makes a

New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev makes a glove save against the New Jersey Devils in the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The sight of Igor Shesterkin getting helped off the ice and into the locker room on Friday night was the last thing anyone in the Rangers organization wanted to see. But everything has been going right for the Rangers these last three weeks or so, and, in a weird way, if there was ever a good time for an injury to happen to their best player, now might be it.

On Saturday, the Rangers put Shesterkin on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least three games, starting with Saturday’s home contest against Chicago.

With the Rangers in a stretch of eight games in 13 days, the earliest Shesterkin can return is Friday. Will he?

"Who knows?" coach Gerard Gallant said before Saturday's game. "But we feel real comfortable he'll be ready to go in a week."

Shesterkin left Friday’s 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden in the third period unable to put any pressure on his right leg. Shesterkin has been their best player this season and one of the best goaltenders in the league.

But the Rangers have been playing so well that when Shesterkin left, the team didn’t miss a beat closing out the final 14 minutes and 52 seconds of the victory in front of backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who started on Saturday and presumably will continue to play until Shesterkin returns.

It’s a chance for Georgiev to turn around what has so far been a lost season.

"I’m sure he feels that way," Gallant said. "For me, I'm confident in the kid. Shesterkin’s played unbelievable hockey for the first 20-some games and Georgie hadn't had a whole lot of chances, but, again, I'm confident with him going in the net."

With top goalie Keith Kinkaid (the Farmingville native) on the COVID-19 list at Hartford (AHL), the Rangers instead called up his backup, Adam Huska.

"It’s obviously deflating when any guy goes down, and has to go to the locker room,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said. "But you don't have too much time to really dwell on it, especially in a 1-0 game. So… it's tough to see, but you’ve got to move on pretty quickly, and respond well, so I thought we did that.’’

"I think we've grown a lot in the last year or two, and I think that we're able to handle these things, no matter who goes down,’’ forward Ryan Strome added. "We've had a ton of games we've played with 11 forwards, with guys getting hurt, or whatever. And I think guys responded well on the bench; just tighten it up, make sure we help (Georgiev) out. And he came in and did a job.’’

Of course, it’s one thing to finish off the last 15 minutes of a game against a Sharks team playing the second game of a back-to-back, and another thing altogether for the Rangers to re-compose themselves and play again Saturday against Chicago at the Garden with Georgiev in the net from the start.

Georgiev has struggled this season, bringing a 3.89 goals-against average and an .867 save percentage into Saturday’s game. And as Shesterkin played better and better – and more and more – things seemed to get worse for Georgiev. He had started just five games this season prior to Saturday, and he was pulled after allowing four goals in two periods in his last start, Nov. 21 against Buffalo.

But coming in cold Friday, Georgiev played well. He made nine saves, including a big one while the Rangers were killing a penalty to K’Andre Miller that prompted the Garden fans to chant, "Georgie! Georgie!’’ And that type of performance could be a springboard for Georgiev to turn his season around, and prove to his coach, his teammates, and himself that he can help the Rangers this season.

"He's a good goaltender, and he's been waiting for an opportunity,’’ Strome said. "He went in there (Friday) and finished her off, and … that's what good teams do. Next man up.’’

Defenseman Jacob Trouba said there’s no real difference playing in front of Georgiev, as opposed to Shesterkin.

"You play the same way in front of them,’’ he said.

With Colin Stephenson

New York Sports