New York Rangers get back on the ice; 3 players enter COVID protocol

The New York Rangers returned to their training facility on Sunday for Covid testing and their first practice since the NHL paused the season last Tuesday.

Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Igor Shesterkin were among the New York Rangers who participated in practice on Sunday afternoon as the team prepares to play in their first game, Wednesday at Florida, since a 3-2 shootout loss to the Golden Knights on Dec. 17.

The day started out with the club announcing that three players were placed in Covid Protocol.

Defensemen Patrik Nemeth, Ryan Lindgren, and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev were unavailable to practice with the team Sunday.

 NHL/NHLPA reach agreement with regards to COVID protocol

The NHL and NHLPA reached an agreement to bring back “Taxi Squads” on a temporary basis.

A brief breakdown of how the Taxi Squad will work for each team is below per an NHL media release.

The NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to the formation of a “Taxi Squad” in order to provide Clubs with readily-available Players who can be recalled to the NHL in order to minimize the chances that Clubs have to play shorthanded or games have to be postponed due to pandemic-related issues. Specifically:

* Clubs will be permitted to form Taxi Squads on a temporary basis beginning on Dec. 26, 2021 (subject to Holiday Roster Freeze restrictions), and lasting through the date of their final game prior to the scheduled dates for the 2022 All-Star Break. After each Club’s final game before the All-Star Break, its Taxi Squad will dissolve. Clubs may then recall or Reassign the Players that were assigned to the Taxi Squad.

* Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.

* Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad will be permitted to travel and practice with the NHL Club, however, such Players can only play in an NHL Game if recalled and placed on the NHL Club’s Active Roster before such NHL Game (and no later than the appropriate 5:00 p.m. deadline). Although not all Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad are required to travel to all away games, it is recommended that a sufficient number of Taxi Squad Players travel with the Club to ensure an adequate number of Players are available for Recalls as may be necessary.

The Rangers will be able to utilize the Taxi Squad provided their AHL affiliate, The Hartford Wolf Pack, does not have multiple players in Covid Protocols.

The NHL postponed three more games scheduled for Tuesday, but as of Monday morning, the Blueshirts game a the Florida Panthers on Wednesday was still on the schedule.

A game at the Garden against the Detroit Red Wings was scheduled for Monday night but was postponed by the league late last week. Instead, the Rangers will have an 11 a.m. practice.

Notes from Practice

Once the Rangers hit the ice Sunday, the lines that were used in practice looked like this;

Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko
Panarin-Strome-Hunt
Lafreniere-Chytil-Gauthier
Rooney-McKegg-Goodrow-Reaves

With Georgiev in protocol and the team waiting for Igor Shesterkin test to come back, the Rangers needed someone to put on the pads at the beginning of practice.

Enter team equipment manager Time Webb. Wearing old pads by former Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Webb took the ice and made his contribution to help get the team’s practice started.

Keith Kinkaid

Provided he has a negative Covid test expect Keith Kinkaid to be called back to the team and back up Shesterkin. Kinkaid played has played in one game this season defeating the Coyotes 3-2 in Arizona.  Kinkaid made 29 saves on 31 shots keeping the team in the game as they struggled early on.

 

Two names added to updated New York Rangers COVID protocols

Ryan Lindgren and Alexandar Georgiev have joined Patrik Nemeth on the Rangers’ COVID-19 list as they wait for the green light to return.

The New York Rangers confirmed that two more names had been added to their COVID-19 list, as goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and defenseman Ryan Lindgren joined Patrik Nemeth.

The placement of Georgiev and Lindgren will temporarily deny the Rangers (19-7-4) the services of two major contributors to their hot start. Lindgren (as well as Nemeth) has appeared in all 30 Ranger games this season and leads the team with a plus/minus of 9. Georgiev filled in serviceably for injured primary netminder Igor Shesterkin, amassing a 5-3-2 record with a 2.87 goals against average to go with a .902 save percentage.

In the midst of the ongoing health crisis, namely the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, the Rangers have not played since a shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 17. Two further games at Madison Square Garden (Dec. 22 against Montreal and Monday’s visit from Detroit) have since been postponed as part of a league-wide pause, with games scheduled to resume on Tuesday. New York’s next scheduled game lands on Wednesday against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET, MSG 2).

Though the Rangers have not made any announcements, it’s likely that they will recall Keith Kinkaid from AHL Hartford to take over for Georgiev as Shesterkin nears a return. The former New Jersey Devil is in the midst of his second season with the Rangers and made his season debut on Dec. 15, stopping 29 shots in a 3-2 win over Arizona. In terms of blue-line help, Hartford defensemen with notable NHL experience include Zac Jones, Jarred Tinordi, and Anthony Bitetto.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Igor Shesterkin off IR, Patrik Nemeth in COVID protocol

The Rangers inched closer to welcoming back their star goaltender but have lost a defenseman to health and safety protocols.

The New York Rangers announced on Saturday that star goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been removed from injured reserve, sending Keith Kinkaid back to AHL Hartford. Additionally, defenseman Patrik Nemeth was placed in COVID protocols.

Shesterkin has not played since leaving Dec. 3’s win over San Jose with a non-contact lower-body injury. His efforts spurred the Rangers’ hot start that currently has them amongst the Metropolitan Division’s elite. Shesterkin had begun traveling with the team on its recent road trip but now returns to the active roster with this move.

Despite missing the last eight games, Shesterkin (13-3-2, 2.05 GAA) continues to pace the NHL’s qualifying goaltenders in save percentage at .937. The Rangers (19-7-4) have performed respectably in his absence, having gone 4-3-1 with the services of Kinkaid, Alexandar Georgiev, and Adam Huska. Georgiev has taken over the primary duties, going 3-2-1 with a .935 save percentage in the seven games since Shesterkin’s injury.

Nemeth, in the midst of his first season with the Rangers after eight prior seasons with Dallas, Colorado, and Detroit, has been placed in COVID protocols, the team’s first entrant in the NHL’s recent uptick in cases amidst the Omicron variant. He has partaken in all 30 games this season, earning two assists on the third defensive pairing.

It should be noted that the Arizona Coyotes, the Rangers’ Wednesday opponent, placed three players on their own COVID list, including Jay Beagle, Lawson Crouse, and Alex Galchenyuk.

For the time being, the Rangers are currently scheduled to take on the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, MSG). It will be their final game before five scheduled days off for the league’s annual Christmas break.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Rangers drop 2nd consecutive game with 4-2 loss to Colorado

The New York Rangers were defeated by the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Tuesday night, their second loss in a row.

The New York Rangers are a good hockey club, yet they were no match for the complete game the Colorado Avalanche put on display Tuesday night in their 4-2 win.

Colorado’s Valeri Nichushkin scored two goals and Nazim Kadri recorded three assists in the victory. The Avalanche has beaten the Rangers two times in the last six days.

Ryan Strome and Julien Gauthier scored for the Blueshirts with Alexandar Georgiev making 27 saves in the loss.  The Rangers have now lost their last three out of four games following their seven-game winning streak.

Adam Fox played a massive 27:22 with 30 shifts. Jacob Trouba was second in ice time with 23:29.

Strome found some positive things coming from the loss.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for growth,” Strome told Mollie Walker of the New York Post. “When things are going well, sometimes you get a little bit complacent, and sometimes it’s a little bit of a reality check. Although it’s a loss, I think that the effort was there. Teams that are good go through adversity no matter where it is in the season, and maybe we’re facing a little bit of it now before Christmas.”

Recap Rangers Scoring

Ryan Strome scored to cut the Avalanche lead in half at 10:31 of the 2nd period with his sixth goal of the year.

In the third period, with the Rangers down by a score of 3-1, Gauthier scored his second of the season, with Geogiev pulled for an extra attacker.

Post Game Notes

Adam Fox reached the 25-assist mark and 30-point mark when he got the helper on Ryan Strome’s second-period goal. Fox’s 25 assists are the second in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (29) and lead all NHL defensemen. Fox joins Brian Leetch as the only defenseman in team history to reach the feat. Leetch did it in 1990-91, 1991-92, and 2000-01. With 30 points, Fox required the fewest games (28) to reach the mark among Rangers defensemen since Brian Leetch (24 GP in 2000-01).

Ryan Strome scored his sixth goal of the season and fourth in his last nine games. Strome has five points (3G-2A) in his last seven games and 16 points (5G-11A) in his last 18 games.

Artemi Panarin notched his team-leading 33rd point of the season with an assist, his 24th of the year. Panarin has recorded 10 points (3G-7A) in his last six games and has points in seven of his last nine games (5G-9A), four of them being multi-point games.

Julien Gauthier scored his first goal since November 16.

The Rangers visit the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night with a 9 p.m. Eastern time faceoff.

New York Rangers: Adam Huska to make first career start vs. Colorado

Like Igor Shesterkin before him, Adam Huska will make his first start for the Rangers against the Colorado Avalanche.

It’s deja blue all over again.

New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant announced that goaltender Adam Huska will make his first career NHL start on Wednesday night when his Blueshirts battle the Colorado Avalanche (7 p.m. ET, MSG 2/NHL Network). Huska will face Colorado nearly two full calendar years to the day that regular Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin made first appeared, with his first start also coming against visitors from Denver at Madison Square Garden in January 2020.

In video released by SNY, Gallant mentioned that the Rangers’ condensed schedule put Huska in net. The Rangers (17-4-3) will play seven games over the next 14 days, starting with Wednesday’s visit from the Avalanche. It’s the latter half of a back-to-back after a 6-2 victory in Chicago on Tuesday.

Huska was called up from AHL Hartford earlier this week as the Rangers continue to work through Shesterkin’s non-contact lower-body injury sustained last Friday against San Jose. Alexandar Georgiev has taken over as the Rangers’ starter with Shesterkin out, earning wins in each of the past two contests.

“The kid’s getting his first chance,” Gallant said. “We’re looking forward to it. He’s excited, we’re excited.”

Huska, 24, joined the Rangers as a seventh-round pick (184th overall) in the 2015 draft. The Slovakia native has shared Hartford’s goaltending duties with NHL veteran Keith Kinkaid and has earned a 2.20 goals against average to go with a .924 save percentage and 2-3-1 record. He also appeared in two preseason games earlier this fall, stopping 18 of 22 shots.

The AHL hasn’t been Huska’s first exposure to Hartford hockey as he previously served as the University of Connecticut’s goaltender for three seasons.

Huska’s official NHL debut will be a trial by fire: though they’ve struggled to string wins together after a torrid November, Colorado (13-7-2) boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL. The Avalanche have scored 92 goals this season, tied with Washington for the NHL’s second-best tally entering Wednesday night. Cale Makar leads the team with 11 goals, which also top all NHL defensemen, while Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen have 10 each.

Entering the final stanza of a five-game eastern swing, Colorado is coming off a 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. The Avalanche put up 50 shots on net and saw all but four skaters earn at least one point.

Huska will wear No. 32, last worn by fellow backup goaltender Antti Raanta (2016-17).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Rangers call up G Adam Huska to back up Alexandar Georgiev

The New York Rangers call up goaltender Adam Huska from the AHL Hartford Wolfpack Saturday afternoon per the AHL transaction page.

The New York Rangers will have Adam Huska backing up Alexandar Georgiev when the Blueshirts host the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night at the Garden.

Huska 24-years-old has appeared in six games for the Hartford Wolf Pack with a 2-3-1 record. he has recorded a 2.20 GAA along with a .924 save percentage serving as the back to Keith Kinkaid.

Kinkaid would most likely be the goalie called up, but per Rangers beat writer Vince Mercogliano he is currently in Covid Protocol in the AHL and is unable to be recalled. The Wolf Pack have been dealing with a Covid situation since Dec. 1  that has resulted in their games being canceled through this weekend.

MRI on Saturday

Shesterkin was scheduled to have an MRI on Saturday to determine the severity of his injury.

Head coach Gerard Gallant told the media following last night’s win that Jim Ramsay, told him the right-leg injury seems minor. He definitely seems like he’s feeling some relief.

Shetserkin and Geogeiev combined for the 1-0 shutout over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night with Shestrkin earing his 13th win of the season. It was the team’s second combined shutout win in team history. The other combined shutout win was in 2016 when Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta shared a 2-0 victory.

 

Barron sent to AHL

Morgan Barron was sent back done to the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday morning.

New York Rangers: Igor Shesterkin injury “not as bad as it looked”

New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant hinted that Igor Shesterkin might’ve avoided disaster after a Friday injury.

In a statement that launched a thousand cautious exhales, New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant announced that Igor Shesterkin’s game-ending injury from Friday was “not as bad as it looked”.

Shesterkin was working on a shutout effort against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden when he was forced to depart with a non-contact injury. The star goaltender was unable to put weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice. Alexandar Georgiev took over the last 14:52 of what became a 1-0 Rangers win, creating the team’s first shared shutout since December 2016.

Gallant offered an optimistic approach after the game, describing the ailment as a “minor lower-body” issue.

“They’re telling me it’s not as bad as it looks,” Gallant said, per Vince Mercogliano of LoHud.com. “The trainer just said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ That’s all he told me.”

Shesterkin has played a major role in the Rangers’ hot start. He has been the winning goaltender in each of the Blueshirts victories during an active five-game streak and has amassed a league-best 13 victories (tied with Jack Campbell of Toronto). His save percentage (.937) and goal against average (2.05) rank third and fifth respectively amongst qualifying goaltenders.

Georgiev, the incumbent backup, is expected to take over in Shesterkin’s wake. Friday marked his first action since Nov. 21, when he was pulled from a start against Buffalo after allowing four goals on 18 shots over two periods (Shesterkin earned the win in a 5-4 final). His nine saves helped the Rangers (15-4-3) seal the deal against San Jose to extend the Eastern Conference’s longest active winning streak (tied with Toronto). Georgiev is in the midst of his fifth season as the Rangers’ primary backup goaltender after joining the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

Though Georgiev has struggled this season (2-1-1, 3.89 GAA), he held down the fort against the Sharks, though he did not earn his first win since Nov. 14’s overtime decision against New Jersey. The Bulgarian-born goaltender was always scheduled to start the Rangers’ Saturday tilt against Chicago (8 p.m. ET, MSG), the second half a back-to-back set at MSG.

Per Mollie Walker of the New York Post, the Rangers have promoted Adam Huska from AHL Hartford to serve as Georgiev’s backup. Hartford is currently in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak-induced pause, one that placed regular goalie Keith Kinkaid in protocols. Huska joined the Rangers as a seventh-round draft pick in 2015 and has earned a 2-3-1 record with a team-best .924 save percentage this AHL season. Morgan Barron is set to return to Hartford in a corresponding move.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Alexandar Georgiev’s struggles will force New York Rangers into tough decision

The New York Rangers have completed the first quarter of their season with a 13-4-3 record despite backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s sub-par play.

The New York Rangers have been a surprise in the National Hockey League’s early win in the 2021-2022 campaign.

Igor Shesterkin has had a great start to the season with 11 wins in 16 games this season (11-3-2, 1 SO) and has won a few games the Blueshirts had no right winning. The Rangers have taken advantage of their schedule, but beginning Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia at MSG, eyes will now be focused on backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev to help carry the load.

Poor Start

Georgiev has had another slow start to an NHL season. The 25-year-old began this season as he did last season, allowing soft goals and losing the few games that he has played in. In the six games he has played in he has just won two games (2-1-1). He has a 4.08 GAA along with a .858 save percentage.

His save percentage is the fifth worse in the NHL (via NHL.com). Georgiev’s goals-against average has him ranked the ninth worse in the NHL.

So what is the problem with the Ruse, Bulgaria native?  That is the million-dollar question. Here is a goalie who was splitting time with Henrik Lundqvist a few years ago. He had 14 wins in the 2018-2019 season and recorded 17 wins in 2019-2020.

Last season, his first with Igor Shesterkin as the number one goalie, he only recorded eight wins,  in 18 starts.

Confidence seems to be Georgiev’s worse enemy. He is standing in quicksand, and he is the only one who can pull himself out.  Soft goals have become customary in his game. He tends to struggle more once the soft goal is allowed and loses his focus in games.

He show signs of regaining the form that saw him have successful seasons on both 2018 and 2019 seasons.  He is battling the game on all fronts and now he may be battling to remain the team’s backup goaltender.

Waivers

Georgiev cannot be sent down to the AHL without clearing waivers, something that would be highly unlikely to occur.

The Blueshirts have a quality goaltender playing for the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack in Keith Kinkaid. He was up with the team all of last season when the Rangers had a taxi squad due to COVID-19 protocols and performed well when called upon to play.

He started seven games last season and had a 3-2-1 record. The highlight of his game last year was how the team played in front of him.  Their game consisted of a hard-charging system leading into the opposition’s end.

This was and currently is the opposite of how the team looks the Georgiev in between the pipes. As his confidence has decreased so have his teammates in front of him.

The Rangers could also look outside the organization. A goaltender such as Matt Murray, who was placed on waivers by Ottawa on Saturday and assigned to the AHL on Sunday would fill in nicely with his NHL experience.

He has played seven seasons in the NHL with 127 wins in 232 games played for both Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

The Rangers cannot wait too long in deciding the best direction for the club to take. The favorable schedule that the team has had is now going to be their enemy.  The schedule will be difficult to navigate around leading to the All-Star/Olympic Break (if the NHL doesn’t decide to opt-out). To add more schedule fuel to the fire, the Rangers currently have 11 sets of back-to-backs remaining on their schedule along with two games that need to be rescheduled (Ottawa and N.Y. Islanders).

Georgiev has to show he belongs with the team now, or he will risk most likely being traded out of New York.

The Rangers start has playoff expectations in high gear. The team needs a quality goaltender to carry the team on the rare off days Shesterkin needs to succeed at a high level.

It’s all up to Georgiev to get his game back on track.

 

 

Rangers’ loss in Washington displays team’s inefficiencies on the ice and behind the bench

The New York Rangers’ loss to the Capitals on Wednesday night confirms that this team has plenty of work ahead of them, on the ice and behind the bench.

The New York Rangers began their 2021-2022 season with a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. It is only one loss, game one of 82 on the schedule, but there were some familiarities to last season the club needs to get away from if they want to put together wins.

Georgiev Gets The Start

The lineup was questioned almost immediately when Alexandar Georgiev led the team onto the ice.  Why was Igor Shesterkin sitting for the first game of the season? Did the back-to-back schedule of games having the team in Washington on Wednesday and then playing their home opener on Thursday play that big of a factor in this decision?

Gerard Gallant was asked about his decision in his post-game presser and really didn’t have a concrete answer as to why he went with Georgiev telling Vince Mercogliano,

“No, not really. Obviously, we’ve got back-to-back games and I think Georgie played real well. I don’t think there’s any issue with the goals with Georgie.”

Georgiev made some good saves, but overalled seemed to struggle at times.  The Rangers gave up two goals in 24 seconds in the second period giving the Capitals a 3-0 lead at the time.  That third goal is one Georgiev would definitely want back. It once again showed that he needs to find a way to make the big save that can stop the opposition’s momentum.

Georgiev made 22 saves on 27 shots in the game taking the loss.

Unusual Lineup

An opening night lineup that saw rookie Nils Lunkvist watching the game, and Jared Tinordi lacing up his skates for the game was a direct result of the club being concerned about the rough style of game that was anticipated to have. This team already had a hard-hitting Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves penciled in to play, why sit Lundkvist then?

The bottom six of the team’s lineup had Filip Chytil centering Sammy Blais and Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Rooney in the middle of Ryan Reaves and Dryden Hunt.

Other than some big hits, neither line produced many scoring chances.

The Rangers scored just one goal, on the power play, by Chris Kreider in the third period.  The special teams were a thorn in the team’s backside throughout the game.

The team took nine penalties allowing four power-play goals. With the man advantage, the Blueshirts managed just one goal in eight opportunities.

This is an area the club had relied on to improve in the offseason, but it is apparently more work is needed to be done.

A New Day

Tonight the Rangers will be back on the ice again, this time at Madison Square Garden. Their home opener welcomes the Dallas Stars and hopefully a better outcome than on Wednesday night.

Gallant has already announced the Igor Shesterkin will be in the net and one could assume that the head coach will insert Lundkvist and forward Julien Gauthier into the lineup in hopes of generating some more offense.

It may be early in the season but this team needs to find its identity early and get some good line chemistry with the tough schedule the team has ahead of them. The Blueshirts only have two home games, after tonight’s game, in the next 10 games.

This team needs to do everything it can not to fall into the quicksand and find ways to keep even with the rest of the league and division.

New York Rangers keep Their Feint Playoff Hopes Alive

The New York Rangers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 4-1 victory of the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. They moved back to six points behind the Boston Bruins, thanks to a Buffalo Sabres victory of the Bruins.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped 26 shots and improved to 8-5-2 on the season. He has allowed two goals or fewer in five of seven career appearances against the Flyers, including one goal or fewer in four of those games.

Chris Kreider opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:02 of the first period. It was his 11th power-play goal of the season, tying him for the most in the NHL.

Artemi Panarin had an assist on the Kreider goal, giving him his 100th career assist as a New York Ranger.

For Thursday night’s game, head coach David Quinn did some changing of the Blueshirts lines. One of the changes was to move Alexis Lafreniere up to the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. That line was very effective as each player on that line contributed two points in the victory.

Buchnevich put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 7:56 with his 20th, assisted by Lafreniere and Zibanejad. Lafreniere made it 3-1 at 9:24 of the third for his ninth of the season. Buchnevich and Zibanejad assisted. Zibanejad has seven goals and 10 assists this season against the Flyers, including two six-point games.

Filip Chytil completed the scoring with his eighth at 13:40, with assists to Kaapo Kakko and Panarin.

The New York Rangers rebound after a tough loss Thursday night.

“I’m just trying to learn every day at practice,” Lafreniere said in his post-game Zoom conference. “It’s fun to play with Mika and Buch and I just gotta learn from them and get better every day.”

“I thought we were a little more opportunistic,” Quinn said after the game. “I don’t think there was a big dip in our game, but the 5-on-3 kill was huge. That third goal really put us in a different mindset.”

The game was part of the “Garden of Dreams” night at MSG, a fundraising effort for that foundation. The Garden of Dreams Foundation is committed to helping children who are facing challenges such as homelessness, extreme poverty, illness, and foster care, and since it began in 2006.

The Rangers will play the Buffalo Sabres twice at MSG, on Sunday and Tuesday night.