So it is right back to Igor Shesterkin for Saturday afternoon’s match in Philadelphia, which represents the best indication possible regarding the goaltender’s health in the wake of his 41-save night Thursday in an 8-3 victory over the Flyers that followed a three-week absence due to a groin strain.
“I thought he looked tremendous,” acting coach Kris Knoblauch said. “I thought he made some really big saves in the first period. I’m not sure what the score was at the time, it was definitely tight, the save that he made on [Claude] Giroux.”
That one, in which the netminder exploded across the crease to deny Giroux from point-blank range, came with 5:18 remaining in the period and the Rangers up, 3-0. Compared to 6-0, which the score became at 2:42 of the second period, or 9-0, which was the final score between the combatants at the Garden on March 17, 3-0 could be considered, “tight.”
But Shesterkin was tested, and notably so over the final two periods when the Blueshirts, to varying degrees, started hunting for easy points once it became 6-0. Shesterkin faced 33 shots over the final 40 minutes and 44 overall, the most allowed by the Rangers this season.
“He played really well,” Knoblauch said. “I thought we gave up some really good scoring chances. At the end of the day, the scoring chances were very equal. So that says a lot about how well Igor played.”
The Blueshirts are going back-to-back with a match in Washington on Sunday afternoon, so presumably either Keith Kinkaid or Alexandar Georgiev will get the assignment against the Capitals.
With Phillip Di Giuseppe off the COVID-19 protocol list, the Rangers are carrying one extra forward on the roster. The lineup had not yet been set when Knoblauch conducted his press briefing early Friday afternoon.
“We haven’t decided yet,” Knoblauch said. “I’ve talked to [heac coach David Quinn], obviously, and we’re still sitting on a couple of things. Everyone is healthy, but we don’t want to commit to the lineup yet.”
It is unclear whether the Rangers feel they might need some sort of additional responder in the lineup in case the Flyers completely ignore coach Alain Vigneault’s “whistle to whistle” mandate, as they did freely throughout Thursday’s match.
Sam Morin, who apparently was fined for pulling Brendan Lemieux’s hair during a bout the Flyer instigated at 18:34 of the third period, attempted to start a fight during almost every shift he was on the ice.
Of course, the Rangers’ best response to the foolishness is to score on the power play, which the Blueshirts did on each of their first three opportunities through the game’s first 21:15, the last one came with Morin in the box for some bit of foolishness that came after the whistle.
The lineup is not set but it does not sound as if Vitali Kravtsov will be summoned from the taxi squad to make his NHL debut in this one.
“I’m not sure what the plan is for Kravvy, when he’s coming [up],” Knoblauch said. “I don’t think he’ll be coming right away but things could change.”