Twice in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres, Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin appeared to get up a little slowly after a play in his goal crease.
The first time was in the second period, when he did the splits as he came across right to left to attempt a save. The second time came in the third period after he had his legs taken out from under him by former Rangers farmhand Steven Fogarty. Shesterkin came up stretching his groins after that, but he had no problems finishing the game, and insisted afterward that he was just fine.
Friday, Rangers coach David Quinn said Shesterkin was still feeling good a day later, and Quinn said he’ll give Shesterkin his third straight start Saturday when the Rangers take on the Sabres in the finale of their two-game series in Buffalo.
The start will be the fifth in six games for Shesterkin since he returned to action after missing 10 games with a groin strain. And from the sound of it, Quinn is ready to ride the rookie goalie hard, as the Rangers chase a playoff spot over their final 20 games.
"Yeah, we're going to ride anybody that gives us a chance to win,’’ Quinn said after Thursday’s game. "And If he keeps playing the way he is, we'll ride him. It's just that simple. There really is no other way to look at it. You know he's played very well lately, and … he's earning opportunities to play again.’’
Shesterkin started the season slowly, but his game had come around by the time he had to be helped off the ice late in a 6-1 win over the Devils in Newark March 4. Since returning three weeks later, March 25 in Philadelphia, he has looked sharp, winning three of his four starts, and allowing nine goals on 134 shots, a .933 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average. On the season, he is 9-8-1, with a 2.29 GAA, and a .924 save percentage.
In his NHL career, Shesterkin has never started more than three games in a row. But if all goes well Saturday, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t make his fourth straight start Tuesday at home against the Penguins. Then, maybe a fifth straight next Thursday against the Penguins.
"We're confident that he'll be able to handle any workload we give him,’’ Quinn said before Thursday’s game.
Quinn promised the organization was "not going to put him in a situation if we don’t think he can handle it,’’ and said the team would be watching for signs if the workload was getting to be too much.
Shesterkin, whose lively personality doesn’t always show itself on postgame Zoom interviews through a translator, promised he’ll be able to handle the workload if Quinn asks him to.
"If the coach says I can play games every game, then I'll be ready, 100 percent, to help the team,’’ he said Thursday, through interpreter Nick Bobrov, the Rangers’ Director of European Scouting.