New York Rangers: Chris Kreider regrets footnote status of historic goal

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Chris Kreider made New York Rangers history on Tuesday night, but it was quickly buried by the reality of a costly loss.

No one could ever deny that Chris Kreider has a flair for the dramatics.

Kreider, after all, made his NHL debut during the theatrics of the 2012 postseason and serves as the sole remnant of the New York Rangers’ prosperous playoff runs of the 2010s. When it came to reaching the historic 50-goal plateau, Kreider was no different, as his monumental tally came in the penultimate minute of the third period of a crucial Metropolitan Division showdown with the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, his 50th of the campaign.

With that goal, Kreider, 30, became the fourth Blueshirt to score 50 goals in a single season. Such a score also unites him with Vic Hadfield (1971-72) for the third-best output in team history, with only Adam Graves (52, 1993-94) and Jaromir Jagr (54, 2005-06) standing above them. He’s also the first Ranger to earn his 50th at MSG since Hadfield and the 50th puck entered the net on the night of Graves’ 54th birthday.

Alas for Kreider and the Rangers, history was a mere footnote, as the Blueshirts (47-21-6) dropped a 4-2 decision to the Hurricanes. Kreider’s goal gave the Rangers hope after they fell behind 3-1 in the final frame, but Sebastian Aho put the game away through an empty-net score with six seconds remaining. The loss put a dent in the Rangers’ late push for a division title, which Carolina (48-18-8) currently owns with a four-point advantage with eight games remaining on each side.

Kreider never hid his disappointment with the fact that his memory-making goal came in a losing effort. When asked if he ever dreamed of reaching 50 goals, especially after never getting past 28 over his first nine full NHL seasons, the first-round pick from the 2009 draft merely replied that he “dreamed of raising the Stanley Cup”.

“It’s something that we can talk about probably on another day,” Kreider said, per ESPN. “It’s hard after a game like that. We were in it, we were doing a lot of good things. I think this would have meant a lot more if we found a way to win the game.”

To Kreider’s point, the Rangers came out hot against the long-tenured division leaders, outshooting the Hurricanes 14-8 in the first period before taking a 1-0 lead on K’Andre Miller’s seventh goal of the season. Carolina took over the latter portions of the game through consecutive tallies from Andrei Svechnikov, Seth Jarvis, and Jordan Staal. Their league-best penalty kill group also erased four Ranger power plays without incident. The teams will meet one more time at MSG on April 26, having split the pair held at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

Despite the loss, head coach Gerard Gallant was sure to give Kreider his well-earned due in the aftermath.

“I think it is awesome that he’s scored 50 goals…It’s a great feat, and he’s had a great season for us, and it’s too bad we had to lose when a guy scores his 50th. But hats off to him,” Gallant said in a video from SNY. “We all dream about the Stanley Cup, but he’s lying. He’s trying to go out and score 50 goals…it’s an unbelievable season and he’s still got six or seven games, I think.”

The Rangers won’t have much time to dwell on the loss to the Hurricanes, as they’ll face another Metropolitan opponent on Wednesday night when they battle the Philadelphia Flyers on the road (7 p.m. ET, TNT).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Rangers shutout Penguins 3-0, magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 2 points

With a solid 3-0 win on Thursday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers are just two points away from clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Igor Shesterkin waved goodbye to the Pittsburgh Penguins following a convincing 3-0 New York Rangers shutout win over their division rivals.  The win gave the Blueshirts a six-point lead for second place in the Metropolitan Division with 10 games remaining.

The game had a playoff vibe from the opening face-off at the Garden.  Shesterkin was strong early in the game even though he didn’t face many shots with the Penguins playing without their captain Sidney Crosby who was a last-minute scratch with a non-covid illness.

This contest was chippy throughout the game but became a post-whistle scrum after a high hit by the Pen’s Anthony Angello on Tyler Motte. It appeared Motte, (who has concussion issues) suffered an upper-body injury and did not return for the remainder of the third period.  Gerard Gallant had no further details to announce during his post-game presser.

Newly acquired Frank Vatrano has enjoyed the Rangers-Penguins rivalry in the short time he has been in New York.

“For the most part, I think it was hard through the whistles,” said  Vatrano.  “Then it got a little chippy there toward the end. But I think the three times I played against them since I’ve been here, it’s been a playoff type of game and those are the games you’re going to play down the stretch. Especially against a team that you might see in the first round.”

Vatrano gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 24 seconds into the second period. Artemi panarin scored his 20th of the season at 9:47 of the second and Igor Shesterkin did the rest as he made 30 saves while recording his fourth shutout of the season.

Shesterkin rebounded after two bad games against the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers last week.

The Rangers head coach said he was never worried about his number one goaltender despite his struggles,

“I thought he was excellent. People were worried about him. I wasn’t. He played really well tonight, made some real key saves at key times.”

With their 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Carolina Hurricanes continue to have a two-point lead over the Blueshirts with the teams jockeying for first place. The Hurricanes have one game in hand.

Game Notes

–       Frank Vatrano opened the scoring with his 16th goal of the season and his sixth as a Ranger. Vatrano has points in six of his last eight games and has totaled eight points (6G-2A) in 12 games with New York. Vatrano’s goal stood up as the game-winner, his third of the season and 17th of his career. Vatrano is one goal away from the 100th of his career.

–       Chris Kreider notched his 21st assist of the season and has points in back-to-back games (1G-2A). In his last 10 games, Kreider has seven goals and six assists for 13 points and a plus-6 rating. 

–       Mika Zibanejad recorded his 20th multi-point game of the year (2A), tying Chris Kreider for the second-most on the team. With his two assists, Zibanejad established a career-high with 46 helpers. His 73 points are one shy of his career-high total set in 2018-19. Zibanejad has points in eight of his last 11 games (2G-9A) and 15 points (5G-10A) in his last 14 games.

–       Igor Shesterkin stopped all 30 shots faced and posted his fourth shutout of the year. Shesterkin’s 33 wins rank tied for third in the league while his .935 save percentage ranks first in the NHL.

–       Artemi Panarin scored a goal, his 20th of the year, in his 500th career game. Since making his NHL debut with Chicago (against NYR) to begin the 2015-16 season, Panarin ranks third in assists (373), fifth in points (558), and fourth in plus/minus (+127). The only active players with more points through 500 career games are Sidney Crosby (706), Connor McDavid (680), Alex Ovechkin (633), and Evgeni Malkin (611). Panarin has points in eight of his last nine games (3G-10A) and has 23 points (4G-19A) in his last 15 games.

–       Andrew Copp tallied an assist and has tallied a point in nine of his last 10 games (3G-10A) and eight of his nine contests (3G-7A) with New York.

–       Jacob Trouba collected his 25th assist of the year, tying his second-most of his career. Trouba has points in two of his past three games (2A).

–       Dryden Hunt scored his fifth goal of the season, a career-high.

–      Barclay Goodrow played in his 400th career game. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has

split his 400 contests between New York (69), Tampa Bay (63), and San Jose (268).   Via NYR PR

The Rangers will host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.

Alexis Lafreniere continues to flourish in return to Rangers’ third line

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Lafreniere continued his torrid pace in the Rangers’ Sunday victory, scoring an equalizer and assisting on K’Andre Miller’s winner.

No. 13 is slowly turning into the New York Rangers’ lucky number as the Stanley Cup playoffs loom.

Alexis Lafreniere’s scoring surge hit a new height on Sunday evening, as the sophomore pushed his points streak to six games. The 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres featured Lafreniere’s first multi-point game since Feb. 24: he first put in a second period equalizer that set the tone for the Rangers’ league-best 22nd comeback win of the season, which was sealed through K’Andre Miller’s extra session tally, on which Lafreniere earned the primary assist after Andrew Copp forced a Buffalo turnover.

Miller, Sunday’s hero, was quick to praise not only Lafreniere’s set-up but his strong pace in the second half of the Rangers’ season.

“Laf has been unbelievable this second half. He’s really stepped up and contributed to the team a great amount, so it’s really cool to see and I’m happy for him,” Miller said in video from SNY. “You see it day in and day out, his work ethic in practice when he gets to the rink. He can kind of just flip that switch and do him. It’s nothing crazy, but he’s been really good.”

Though the Rangers (42-19-5) seemed pleased with the progress that Lafreniere, 20, has made in his second season, the active scoring streak has become a form of conventional, traditional improvement that justifies the hype that surrounded him as the top pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Some felt that it was merely an effect of Lafreniere’s inclusion on the top forward line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, a run of relative glory ended when head coach Gerard Gallant inserted Copp’s fellow trade deadline newcomer Frank Vatrano into the top line. Vatrano, formerly of the Florida Panthers, has justified the promotion with four goals over his first five games in blue, including two in Sunday’s opening period. Further controversy surrounded Lafreniere when he was relegated to the bench for most of the third period of the Rangers’ disastrous visit to New Jersey on Tuesday.

But Lafreniere is proving that his surge is no fluke in his return to the third line alongside Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow. The former has earned assists in each of his last two games, including the primary on Lafreniere’s Sunday goal that stopped a streak of three consecutive Buffalo tallies.

While some saw the push back to the third line as a demotion for the top pick, Lafreniere was happy with such placement, primarily for the fact it situated him back at his traditional spot of left wing.

“It was good to come back to my natural side,” Lafrenière said in video provided by the Rangers. “I can play both sides, and we have so many options in our forward group. I think we’re really deep. So wherever I need to play, I’ll be ready, so it was a good game for everybody…I feel like it’s more natural for me coming back into my own zone. It’s things like that where you always a little late when you aren’t used to it.”

The shift paid immediate dividends: Lafreniere opened scoring in the Rangers’ 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday, pacing a complete effort that some saw as the team’s best win of the season.

“When we talked the other day, he was fine with it. He was happy, he just wants to go out and play,” Gallant said after Friday’s win, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “He was really good. Good line switch.”

Lafreniere’s surge has allowed him to set new infantile career-bests in goals (15) and points (25). The Blueshirts have gone 5-1-0 during Lafreniere’s scoring streak, allowing them to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division’s packed division title race. New York is four points behind Carolina for the top seed (the Hurricanes have a game in hand as well) while they’re also one point behind Pittsburgh for the runner-up spot (though the Penguins have played one more game).

The Rangers’ return to action features another round with the Penguins, as they’ll square off again on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Rangers G Igor Shesterkin fails to score but earn milestone win in Ottawa

Shesterkin failed to net his first but will surely settle for his 50th win, as the Rangers closed the weekend with a road triumph in Ottawa.

Igor Shesterkin has seemingly done it all for the New York Rangers this season, though no one is obviously expecting him to score goals.

That hasn’t stopped the goaltender from trying, however.

Shesterkin was inches away from scoring the first goaltender goal in Rangers history on Sunday evening in Ottawa. With the Rangers nursing a 2-1 lead over the hosting Senators, Shesterkin had an empty net to fire upon after Filip Gustavsson was pulled for an extra skater. His attempt, coming as the excess Senators dumped the puck into the Rangers’ zone to set up an attack in the penultimate minute of the game, appeared to be on target, but drifted to the left of the vacated net as it returned to Ottawa’s end of the rink, leading to an icing.

Though Shesterkin missed out on becoming the first Rangers’ netminder to score a goal rather than stopping it, he still came up big to the tune of 29 saves in the eventual victory. History nonetheless awaited the 26-year-old Shesterkin, who earned the 50th win of his Rangers career, becoming the fastest Blueshirt to reach the landmark. Doing so in his 79th career NHL game is also tied with Philadelphia’s Bob Froese for the sixth-best pace in league history.

Ironically, no goalie in Rangers history came closer to scoring than Froese: in 1987, the second of four years in blue, Froese was originally credited with the second netminder’s goal in NHL history during a win over the New York Islanders. However, replays conducted days after the game determined that Froese had not touched the puck prior to the goal, which was earned during a delayed penalty.

Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall earned the historic goal mere days after the erasure of Froese’s, becoming the first NHL goalie to score through a shot on net. Islanders legend Billy Smith owns the first official goalie score in NHL history, as he was the last member of the scoring team to touch the puck before the Colorado Rockies put one into their own net in a November 1979 contest. Hextall, who duplicated the feat during the 1989 NHL playoffs is one of two goalies to earn multiple goals. Martin Brodeur put in three during his time in New Jersey, scoring in 1997, 2000, and 2013.

Humorous regret, however, nonetheless served as the theme in the aftermath of the Rangers’ road victory, once again supported by Shesterkin stops. The third-year goalie has made no secret about his desire to score a goal and could be seen laughing after his Sunday attempt sailed just wide. To date, 13 goals in NHL regular season and playoff history have been credited to netminders, the last put in by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in January 2020.

Even without a tally in the goal section of the box score, Shesterkin has earned strong praise for his puck handling during his second year as the Rangers’ full-time goaltender. Perhaps it was a feeling brought about by victory (as well as an Ottawa timeout taken after the ensuing icing), but head coach Gerard Gallant was perfectly fine with Shesterkin firing a puck the length of the ice and risking a tired line facing a replenished opponent.

“He had a lot of room. He handles the puck real well, as good as any goalie in the league from what I’ve seen,” Gallant said in video from SNY. “There was nobody in front of him, he had lots of room…we trust him, he’s won a lot of games for us. If they happened to knock one down and score on us…we’ll move on from that. (But) I enjoyed it, I wish it would’ve went in the net like everybody else.”

Ryan Strome, who scored the first of two Ranger goals on Sunday evening, remarked that the loudest cheers on Canadian Tire Centre’s visitors’ bench came when Shesterkin’s shot seemed destined for the back of the net. But Strome remarked that the goalie’s puck handling goes far beyond attempts to make humorous NHL history.

“The sound (from the bench) was getting louder and louder as the puck got closer to the crease,” Strome said in a report from Lisa Wallace of The Canadian Press. “It’s just a matter of time; he’s going to stick with it. It’s not just trying to score goals; the plays he makes and the breakout passes are just spectacular. He’s probably a better passer than 75-80 percent of our team. I think guys would openly admit that, too.”

With the win, clinched through Artemi Panarin’s power play goal in the second period, Shesterkin improved to 24-5-3 this season. His .939 save percentage continues to pace the NHL while his 2.05 goals against average trails only Ville Husso of St. Louis.

The Rangers (32-13-5) have earned points in each of their last five games after Sunday’s win, each of them overseen by Shesterkin. They’ll return to action on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ugly win against the Kraken continues to show cracks in New York Rangers game

The New York Rangers might have gotten the win on Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Kraken, but their poor play throughout most of the game is a concern to the head coach.

The New York Rangers had just come off the Garden ice celebrating their 3-2 win over the Seattle Kraken on Sunday afternoon with K’Andre Miller scoring the game-winner with just 34 seconds remaining in the third period.

The win was the team’s 29th of the year and they have won six of their last nine games.  Rangers rank tied for fourth in wins and points (62) in the NHL but you would never know the team was playing at this level after hearing what head coach Gerard Gallant had to say following the game reported by the New York Posts’s Larry Brooks.

“I think it was awful, loved the win, but I’m not happy.  Competitiveness … quite a bit [missing]. Very disappointing. I’m not disrespecting their team, they play hard, I’m talking about my team and we didn’t play hard enough.”

Failing to Hold Leads

For the third consecutive game, the Blueshirts found themselves failing to protect a two-goal lead. Thanks to Miller’s late goal the Rangers were able to find a win, but it wasn’t pretty.

Shots on goal have not been easy for the team to find. Sunday’s game was the same with the Rangers only managing 12 shots on goal combined for the first and second period ( six in each of the first two periods).

Rangers forwards had 11 of the team’s 24 total shots on goal for the game. Miller lead the team in shots with four followed by Ryan Lindgren with three.

The head coach has noticed a noticeable drop in the play of his team over the past week.

Igor Shesterkin won his 21st game of the season as he kept the game close. He made 14 saves in the first period and gave the team the opportunity to win by stopping 16 of 17 shots in the third period. Having your goalie stand on his head all night to get a win is no way to go through the season ( though don’t mention that to Henrik Lundqvist).

Goal scoring has become a problem that goes side by side with a lack of shots on goal. The Rangers have the lowest goal differential of any team that is currently in a playoff spot (+20). In comparison, the first place Carolina Hurricanes have a +49 goal differential.

It’s apparent that the club is a top-heavy team with Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, and Artmei Panarin producing most of the scoring for the team.  Gallant has continued to search for another forward on the team to take one of the top six spots, but he has been unsuccessful in finding a suitable player on the roster to carry the load.

The Blueline has been able to hold its own while Adam Fox has been out with an injury suffered last Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sunday’s game saw the defense pairings scrambled with Jacob Trouba and Miller paired as always. Lindgren was paired with Mathew Schneider and Libor Hajek played alongside Zac Jones.

The team has struggled with finding some consistency with their third pair unit. The Fox injury magnifies the importance of finding a fifth defenseman. Patrik Nemeth, Jeff Tinordi, and Nils Lundkvist had been a few who have tried to grab the opportunity but failed to do so.

Kappo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Adam Fox missed Sunday’s game with injuries and are expected to miss the team’s last game before the All-Star break when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at MSG.

Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is fast approaching with many decisions yet to be made. The team is in the “buying” position this year and general manager Chris Drury will need to make the right deals to improve not only the remaining portion of this season but upcoming seasons in order to go deep into the playoffs.

The issues now are the same that have lingered throughout this season. The team needs a top-six forward, a veteran defenseman, a decision on whether Alexandar Georgiev is the team’s best option as back-up goalie and should they re-sign Ryan Strome.

The head coach is not a happy camper right now with good reason. To continue the progress the team has made, some changes need to be addressed, hard decisions need to be discussed and in the end, the team will continue to play well enough to play hockey in mid-April.

 

 

Rangers start out slow, drop 3-1 decision to Kings, Goodrow joins long list in Covid Protocol

The New York Rangers found themselves in a hole 55 seconds into their game against the L.A. Kings and suffered a 3-1 loss.

The New York Rangers came out flat at the start of the first period and paid dearly for it when Philip Danault scored his seventh of the year 55 seconds into the hockey game. Blake Lizotte made it 2-0 at 3:41 of the first with the Kings going on to win the game 3-1.

The Covid ghost continued to haunt the Blueshirts with the announcement that Barclay Goodrow entered Covid protocol prior to the start of the game.

Goodrow joins a long list of players and coaches in Covid protocol which now includes head coach Gerard Gallant, Igor Shesterkin, Ryan Reaves, and Julien Gauthier.

Kris Knoblauch arrived in Los Angeles to stand behind the bench for the missing Gallant. He had a busy few days of travel with his Hartford Wolf Pack playing in Utica, N.Y. over the weekend, then heading back to Connecticut. Before he could get any rest he found himself on a cross-country flight to meet up with the Rangers.

Tough Night for Strome’s Line

The night started with the return of Artemi Panarin who missed four games due to protocol. He returned to the left-wing, with Ryan Strome in the middle and Alexis Lafreniere on the right side.  The line was on the ice for all three goals scored against the Rangers Monday night.

The second line wasn’t the only reason the team suffered their 10th loss of the season. Defenseman K’Andre Miller had another inconsistent game, coughing up the puck which lead to theKing’s first goal of the game. It was the second consecutive game a Miller turnover resulted in the opposition scoring a goal.

The Rangers finally scored a goal when Mika Zibanejad (13 goals) deflected a Filip Chytil shot to cut the Kings lead in half to 2-1 at 11:27 of the third period.  Zibanejad’s goal was his eighth goal in his last nine games and his fifth goal in his last five games.

The Rangers had a game plan heading into the game, but as Chris Kreider explained to Dan Greenspan of NHL.com the team was not smart. He took the blame for the team’s overall performance on Monday night.

“We talked about before the game what they do in the neutral zone, and we just decided to work hard and not smart,” Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “We need to come with speed, support each other, and we made it really easy on them walking out of the zone, and then ultimately trying to get our feet going a little bit too late, and getting beat and giving them rushes and letting them advance the puck up the ice.”

“I think that’s what you saw at the beginning of the second period, and ultimately, it’s on us to settle down and regroup and commit to doing the right things to advance the puck and play the right way. We did that a little bit too late when we’d already given up the lead at that point. You didn’t nip it in the bud early in the game, so it’s on us. It’s on me.”

 

Team Notes

  • ROADSHOW – The Rangers played their 22nd road game of the season tonight, tying Calgary for the most road games in the  NHL. New York has played 22 of 37 games on the road (59.5%), their most through 37 games in franchise history.
  • PENALTY KILLING – New York went a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill tonight and have been perfect on the PK in five of their last seven games, nine of their last 12 games, and 15 of their last 19 games. The Rangers have killed off 45 of their last 49 penalties (91.8) since Nov. 26.
  • FACEOFF FRENZY – The Blueshirts went 31-for-51 (61 percent) in the faceoff circle and have been 50 percent or better in the circle in three of their last five games. Tonight was the fourth time this season in which the Rangers were 61 percent or better (1.10 at LAK, 1.02 vs. TBL, 12.17 vs. VGK, 12.15 at ARI).
  • Mika Zibanejad scored his 13th goal of the season and the Ranger’s lone goal tonight. Zibanejad has eight goals in his last nine games and five goals in his last five games. Since December 15, Zibanejad leads the NHL with eight goals in that span. In his last nine games, Zibanejad has totaled eight goals and four assists for 12 points. Zibanejad has points in four of his last five games (5G-1A). Zibanejad is one goal away from 150 with New York. In addition to his goal, Zibanejad went 16-for-23 in the faceoff circle (70.0 percent), his fifth game this season registering a faceoff percentage of 70 percent or better. Four of those five games have come since Dec. 17.
  • Filip Chytil notched an assist for a second consecutive game, giving him three goals and six assists for nine points this season. It marks the second time this season that Chytil has recorded assists in back-to-back games (Dec. 8-10, 2021).
  • Greg McKegg tallied his second point (A) of the season, in his 17th game, giving him two assists in his last six games. McKegg delivered a team-high and career-high six hits, surpassing his previous high of four hits.
  •  Ryan Lindgren played in his 150th career game, all with the Rangers. Since making his debut on January 15, 2019, among all Rangers, Lindgren ranks third in plus/minus (+44) and blocked shots (201), fourth in hits (261), and second in shorthanded time on ice.
  • Jacob Trouba had a team-high four blocked shots, tying Connor Murphy (82) for the fourth-most blocked shots in the NHL. (via NYR PR)

The Rangers will have the day off on Tuesday. Their next game is Thursday night in San Jose.

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

New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko nears return

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Kaapo appears to be on pace to partake in the New York Rangers’ return to action against Columbus on Friday night.

Optimism reigns when it comes to the return of Kaapo Kakko, who may be ready to go when the New York Rangers take the ice on Friday night against Columbus (7 p.m. ET, MSG).

Kakko has missed the last four games after suffering an upper-body injury during Oct. 16’s win in Montreal but it appears that the third-year Blueshirt is ready to end his medical sabbatical.

“I’m ready to play,” Kakko said of his status, per Mollie Walker of the New York Post. Though Kakko is ready to play, it may take Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant some convincing to put him in Friday’s lineup.

“Hopefully, pretty sure, but that’s not 100 percent,” Gallant said in another report from Walker. “We got through [Thursday], and the medical staff will let me know in the morning. It looks good.”

Walker’s reports stated that Kakko has returned to the second even-strength line as a full participant in the last two practices, working alongside Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.

The Rangers (4-2-1) are returning to Madison Square Garden for a Friday night tilt against the divisional rival Blue Jackets (4-2-0) before embarking on a four-game road trip through the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.

During his time away from the team, Kakko kept a close eye on the Rangers’ penalty kill, saying he “definitely learned something about it”. The Rangers killed off all but one of 12 penalties in Kakko’s absence after allowing goals on four of their first 11.

While the Rangers are hopeful about seeing Kakko on Friday, it’s likely they’ll be missing Ryan Reaves, who left Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames with a lower body injury. Reaves did not practice on Thursday, nor did Chris Kreider, though the latter was held out due to maintenance.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Mika Zibanejad, Gerard Gallant send support to Kyle Beach

New York Rangers reps extended their support to Beach, the “John Doe” in the sexual assault report centered around the Chicago Blackhawks.

Members of the New York Rangers expressed their support for Kyle Beach during practice proceedings on Thursday. Beach has been identified as the “John Doe” of a damnatory report released on Tuesday, one that exposed the Chicago Blackhawks’ inaction in the wake of sexual assault allegations made against video coach Brad Aldrich en route to a championship during the 2009-10 season.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant commended Beach for his bravery in coming forward, namely through an interview with Rick Westhead on TSN’s SportsCentre program on Wednesday night.

“He came out publicly and got a lot off his chest (after) 11 years, so that’s got to be real tough on the kid. But I think he’s courageous and did an outstanding job when he came out last night. It’s a tough, tough situation, but hopefully, he can heal and feel a lot better about himself,” Gallant said, per Vincent Mercogliano of LoHud.com. “I watched that press conference last night, and I’m sure you all watched that, too. It’s really tough to watch and it really chokes you up, just as a person watching that. I didn’t know the kid personally, but the positive thing that I took out of that last night was he talked about the healing, and that’s going to take place now.”

One of Gallant’s leading scorers, Mika Zibanejad, concurred.

“It’s a terrible thing that happened and I really feel for him and for the victims,” Zibanejad said in Mercogliano’s report. “It takes a lot of courage to be able to come out and tell his story. It’s just a terrible situation that shouldn’t happen, and all the things that kind of caused him and his family all this (pain) and everything. It’s just shocking, but first and foremost, it’s a terrible, terrible thing that happened.”

The independent report declared that neither Blackhawks management nor the NHL Players’ Association acted upon allegations brought forth by Beach as the team embarked on a run to the Stanley Cup Final in May 2010. Action was taken only after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first championship since 1961. Aldrich resigned but was allowed to partake in the Stanley Cup celebrations and later took a job at a Houghton, MI high school, in part thanks to a recommendation from the Blackhawks. He plead guilty to criminal sexual conduct charges against a teenager three years later.

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman and vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac have since resigned. Despite appear in the report, then-Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was allowed to coach the Florida Panthers in the wake of the report’s release and was said to be meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday.

Beach is currently under contract in the Oberliga, a third-tier German league. He spent parts of the 2013-14 season with the Rangers’ organization, appearing in 39 games with their AHL affiliate in Hartford.

The Rangers (4-2-1) return to action on Friday night at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m ET, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers’ Jacob Trouba feels ‘team is tighter’ this season

New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba’s comments on Sunday are raising questions about what went on in the locker room under former coach David Quinn last season.

With the New York Rangers enjoying the view from atop of the Metro Division (4-1-1 9 PTS.), the team has seemed to form a bond, something that defenseman Jacob Trouba hinted was missing since he arrived in New York.

New York Post’s Mollie Walker Tweeted out some comments that were said by the nine-year veteran player on Sunday. The discussion appeared to begin about how the team defends one-goal leads, but his answer appeared to indicate some friction in the locker room during the season last year.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a different feel in that situation… We know what to do, it’s not really overthought and everybody knows their job. Do your job and we’ll be fine. That’s the kind of mentality we’ve taken.”

Trouba joined the Rangers for the start of the 2019-2020 season following a trade that sent defenseman Neal Pionk to the Winnipeg Jets in June 2019.

The 27-year-old had been rumored to be in contention to be named the next captain of the Blueshirts before the club decided to go with alternate captains prior to the start of this season.

Regardless of having the “C” on his uniform, Trouba has been a consistent leader on and off the ice.

Last season he has was credited with mentoring rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller. The two were paired for most of the season, under David Quinn, with Trouba guiding the rookie through a successful first season in the NHL.

Trouba continued his conversation,

“I think there’s a little bit more cohesiveness and the team’s a little bit tighter. Guys are comfortable being themselves more than they have been in the past, myself included.”

The comments here seem to indicate that there was, at the very least, some tension between the players and the head coach last season. It is hard to judge exactly what went on behind the scenes last year, but for now, things seem to be playing out much better for Trouba and his teammates this season.

This comfort level could just be a result of the Ranger’s four-game winning streak or a combination of team bonding and a different way Gerard Gallant deals with his players.