Over 2000 days ago, the Rangers drafted Igor Shesterkin in the fourth round with the 118th overall pick, and tonight he’ll make his long-anticipated debut (7:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN).
Following the conclusion of the Canadian road trip, the Rangers have lost their last three games all in regulation. The Blueshirts only goal came from Pavel Buchnevich in the first period. Alex Georgiev made 25 saves on 27 shots in the 2-1 defeat. The Rangers outplayed the Canucks for the majority of the game but the difference maker was Jacob Markstrom who was the games first star with 36 saves. Simply put, the Rangers ran into a hot goaltender.
Tonight, the Rangers will turn to their hot goaltender who has been having an incredible year. Igor Shesterkin will make his long-awaited NHL debut after being drafted in 2014. In the AHL, Shesterkin has posted a 15-4-3 record with a 1.93 goals against average and a .932 save percentage to go along with three shutouts. The 24-year-old will become the first Russian born goaltender to make a start in the history of the New York Rangers franchise.
“I just think it’s a natural progression when you have a guy playing as well as he was in the American Hockey League, you call him up and you give him an opportunity,” said head coach David Quinn.
The Blueshirts for now will carry three goalies after Shesterkin earned his way to do this opportunity. The Rangers will start a three-man juggling act starting Tuesday night for the foreseeable future.
“We’re just taking it right now day by day. That’s really all we’ve really thought about, the present right now. Right now, we’ve got three goalies,” Quinn Elaborated. [Shesterkin] played his way into this opportunity. It has nothing to do with [Lundqvist or Georgiev]. Those guys have really given us a chance most nights. It’s really more about Igor.”
“He’s been doing really well in Hartford and preparing for his first opportunity up here,” Lundqvist said of Shesterkin. “The day-to-day approach for me doesn’t change. I can only control what I can control.” Lundqvist has started just 22 of the first 41 games and will serve as the backup for Shesterkin.
Despite coming off a defeat on Monday night against the Islanders, Colorado will be a very tough test for Shesterkin. Colorado enters the game as the highest scoring team in the NHL and they possess many dangerous weapons. Nathan MacKinnon enters the game with 64 points in 43 games played. Mikko Rantanen has 31 points but in only 27 games played after missing time with an injury. The Avalanche have great depth goal scoring as ten players that have registered at least 20 points. Making a name for himself on the blue line is rookie Cale Makar. Makar is second in points on the Avalanche with 32. His defensive partner is former Ranger prospect Ryan Graves. Graves is making a name for himself in Colorado and has 15 points and is a plus 30.
Phillip Grubauer will get the start for the Avalanche. Grubauer is 12-9-3 with a 2.87 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
Libor Hajek is practicing and is available to return to the lineup. Hajek suffered a knee sprain on December 6th against the Blue Jackets. At Monday practice, the Rangers skated with the same lineup with Hajek rotating in. Hajek will likely be a healthy scratch on Tuesday night.
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