Rangers place Shesterkin on IR, Next Man Up

As expected, the Rangers placed starting goalie Igor Shesterkin on the IR due to the lower-body injury he suffered during the third period of last night’s 1-0 win.

At the very minimum, he’ll miss the next three games including tonight’s home match against the Blackhawks. It’s a game backup Alex Georgiev was supposed to get anyway. Something coach Gerard Gallant hinted at prior to Friday night.

For Georgiev, it’s an opportunity to prove himself. Given his struggles thus far, now he’ll get a chance between the pipes. With the Rangers having a busy schedule that includes games Tuesday at Chicago and back home Wednesday for the Avalanche, we’ll see if he’s up to the challenge.

With a COVID outbreak hitting Hartford, the Rangers recalled Adam Huska to backup. Keith Kinkaid is one of the Wolf Pack players who’s positive. So, we won’t be seeing him. Huska is 2-3-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .924 save percentage over six games with the Pack.

The 24-year old Slovakian is in his third pro season after attending the University of Connecticut for three years. Huska was a late seventh round pick in the ’15 NHL Draft. If for any reason Georgiev struggles, it’s possible he could get into a game. That’s the last resort.

One thing that Ryan Strome said in the postgame is how it’s a Next Man Up mentality. The veteran playmaking pivot feels that they’re a different team from years past.

“We’ve grown a lot in last year or two,” Strome stated to reporters following Friday’s win.

“We’re able to handle these things, no matter who goes down. We’ve had a ton of games where we’ve played with 11 forwards, either guys getting hurt or whatever. I think guys responded well on the bench, just turned it up, make sure we helped [backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev] out. He came in and did his job, he’s a good goaltender. He’s been waiting for an opportunity and he went in there and finished [it] off.”

“That’s what good teams do. Next man up.”

That’s exactly how they must approach things. Anytime you lose someone so important like Shesterkin to injury, it hurts. However, the strong response in the final 15 minutes of their win over the Sharks was a good statement. They attacked and defended well enough to make life easier for Georgiev, who stopped all nine shots to split a shutout with Shesterkin.

As far as it being a short-term injury, I’m not so sure. With a history of groin issues including last year when he wound up missing 10 games after the team indicated he was “day-to-day,” it’s hard to put a timetable on when Shesterkin will return. He’s supposed to practice first once he’s cleared.

The Rangers also visit Buffalo next Friday. Counting yesterday, that’s a stretch of five games over eight days. What they can’t do is rush him back. If I had to guess, a three week period seems more likely. That would give Shesterkin more time. Hopefully, he’ll recover and be available after Christmas.

Good teams find a way to win games without their best players. This will be a good litmus test. We’ll find out more about the Blueshirts. It starts in less than two hours.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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