GREENBURGH — Happy, lighthearted Igor Shesterkin was not a sight seen often in the Rangers’ locker room last season. But on Thursday, the first day of on-ice testing for veterans at training camp, the Blueshirts’ goalie was in a good mood.
When Filip Chytil was given a plaque by the local beat reporters for being voted the Good Guy Award last season, he playfully lifted it over his head and called out to Shesterkin, saying, “Hey, Shesty, first award of the season!’’ To which, Shesterkin replied, “Yeah, and the last!’’
Shesterkin didn't joke around like that last season – at least, not when reporters were around. He had a slow start, coming off his Vezina Trophy-winning 2021-22 season, and often seemed to brood in the locker room. He seldom made himself available to talk to the media after games, but one night, following a bad loss to the Devils in November, he did talk, and blamed himself for the loss, declaring, “The goalie played like [expletive] again.’’
But, over the summer, after the Rangers’ first-round playoff loss to the Devils, the 27-year-old Russian decided he needed to let it all go.
“I just started to work on my brain,’’ he said. “I just want to be positive every day right now. Because last season I was so mad at myself because I didn't play like I wanted to. And I hope this season won't be like [that] and I will be more happy.’’
“I was too hard on myself, for sure,’’ he continued. “I think you remember how I was, every practice. So mad. I didn't want to talk too much, to anybody, except my family.’’
But he is glad to be back to work after a too-long summer.
“I'm so happy,’’ he said. “So excited about new season.’’
The father of a 1-year-old, he joked about wanting to go on the road, where he can get a little bit more sleep.
“I missed hockey,’’ he said. “I missed my teammates. I’m so happy to talk about hockey.’’
Lafreniere OK with playing right wing?
Alexis Lafrenière was ready for the line of questioning on Thursday. He gets the same questions at the start of every training camp.
Can you play right wing?
“I've always played left wing, my whole career, almost,’’ he said. “But you’ve got to be able to play both [wings], and for me, I think I can be good playing right, too. I just have to adjust a little bit.’’
Lafreniere has played some right wing for the Rangers in each of his first three seasons, but he’s always ended up getting moved back to the left wing, where he is stuck behind Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider on the depth chart. Switching to right wing seems the logical move to try and get Lafrenière on one of the top two lines, and new coach Peter Laviolette said he will try the 21-year-old Lafrenière on the right early in training camp.
Lafrenière insists moving left to right won’t be a big deal. The biggest thing?
“Coming back in your [defensive] end,’’ he said. “I'm used to just go to the left side and trying to cover my [defenseman] there. But I’ve just got to do the same thing on the other side … Nothing crazy.’’