Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin reaches for the puck in the...

Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin reaches for the puck in the second period of an NHL game against the Lightning at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LAS VEGAS — Just as the Rangers hit the ice for warmups before Thursday night’s game against the Golden Knights, they announced that No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been placed in COVID-19 protocol.

Shesterkin, who practiced with the team Wednesday, must have tested positive Thursday. He will be in protocol a minimum of five days.

Alexandar Georgiev started in goal. Keith Kinkaid was elevated from the taxi squad to the active roster to serve as his backup. Georgiev started the Rangers’ previous game, the 4-1 victory Monday against Edmonton.

Panarin could be back Saturday

Thursday was the fifth day since Rangers star forward Artemi Panarin was placed in COVID-19 protocol, and that night’s game against the Golden Knights was the third game he missed.

According to the NHL’s revised protocols, players testing positive for the coronavirus who are vaccinated and are not experiencing symptoms need only serve a five-day isolation period.

Panarin — if he meets the necessary criteria — could clear protocol Friday. That would make him available to rejoin the lineup Saturday, when the Rangers are scheduled to play the second game of their five-game road trip in Anaheim against the Ducks.

(The Ducks’ game against the Red Wings on Thursday was postponed because of COVID and was rescheduled for Sunday).

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant is not permitted to give updates about Panarin while he is in protocol, but he did allow that he expects Panarin to be able to join the Rangers before the road trip ends.

"I would expect it,’’ Gallant said. "I’m no doctor, but I definitely expect him.’’

Panarin went into protocol Sunday before the Rangers’ matinee game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers won that game, 4-0, and won Monday’s game against Edmonton, 4-1.

"Every team loses players,’’ Gallant said. "[Connor] McDavid’s out for Edmonton — it happens. It’s part of the game. You just don’t make a big deal out of anything. You just put somebody else in there.

"It gives Laffy [Alexis Lafreniere] a chance to go out and play more minutes, and he’s succeeding with it so far. So you move on. I mean, we all want our best players playing, but it’s part of the game. It’s what’s happening now. And I know you’ll adjust to it and do the best we can.’’

Gallant also said defenseman Patrik Nemeth, who is in non-roster status because of a personal non-COVID issue, is expected to join the team before the trip ends.

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