Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin’s return ‘gives everyone a little jolt’

Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin’s return ‘gives everyone a little jolt’

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Igor Shesterkin has not had a full practice since Jan. 5, has not played since Jan. 2 and was just cleared from COVID-19 protocol Thursday morning after being sidelined for three games over the past week. 

Yet all signs point to Shesterkin getting the assignment for the Rangers’ match against the Sharks on Thursday night once he was the first goaltender off the ice at the morning skate. Alexandar Georgiev received extra work while staying on with the spares and taxi squad. 

“I think whenever you see a guy who has the impact that he does on our team it gives everyone a little jolt,” Adam Fox said of Shesterkin’s return. “Georgie has played really, really well and we have confidence in either one of those two. 

“But you see what Igor can do and whenever you get a regular back, and someone like him, it can obviously boost the team a little bit.” 

Igor ShesterkinIgor Shesterkin was cleared from COVID protocol Thursday morning. AP

Shesterkin had started only three of the Rangers’ last 15 games since suffering a groin injury during the third period of a 1-0 victory over the Sharks at the Garden on Dec. 3. The 26-year-old Russian missed eight games rehabbing, returned for the first of three straight starts on Dec. 29 and backed up one game before testing positive last week. 

“I don’t think he gets enough attention,” acting coach Kris Knoblauch said of Shesterkin. “In New York he does, but around the NHL when you talk about the elite goalies in the league, maybe he gets mentioned once in a while but he should be mentioned in that conversation all the time.” 

Georgiev, coming off a run of four straight starts for the first time in his NHL career, recorded a 5-4-1 record with a .931 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average in 10 starts and 11 appearances since Shesterkin was first sidelined early last month. 

Ryan Reaves and Julien Gauthier remained in COVID-19 protocol, and both missed a third straight game. Barclay Goodrow missed a second match while on the restricted list, as did head coach Gerard Gallant. 

Dryden Hunt joined the team for the morning skate, but the winger remained on injured reserve with the upper-body injury he sustained in Las Vegas on Jan. 6. Hunt is eligible for reinstatement for Saturday’s match in Philadelphia that marks the end of this five-game trip. 

The Rangers won 214 of 405 draws (52.8 percent) over their past nine games entering Thursday and had climbed to 25th in the NHL in faceoff efficiency at 47.7 percent. Mika Zibanejad won 93 of his 154 draws over that stretch for 60.3 percent, elevating his season work at the dots to 51.8 percent. 

Justin Richards joined the taxi squad on Thursday.