The Rangers likely let out a collective sigh of relief Friday at the news that rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin had suffered what the team described as a “mild groin strain” during Thursday’s win over the Devils.
Shesterkin is considered day-to-day, according to the team’s announcement, after suffering an injury that looked to be far worse when he had to be helped to the locker room at Prudential Center. Shesterkin wasn’t able to put any weight on his right leg and appeared to be in immense pain toward the end of the third period of the Rangers’ 6-1 win over the Devils.
When head coach David Quinn spoke to the media following practice Friday, he said the 25-year-old was still being evaluated by a doctor.
This is Shesterkin’s second groin injury since joining the Rangers last season. While in the bubble for the expanded playoffs, Shesterkin suffered a similar injury while playing the first half of an exhibition game against the Islanders on July 29. It flared up again at a Rangers practice a few days later, forcing Shesterkin to sit for the first two games of the play-in series against the Hurricanes.
By the time he made his first NHL playoff start in Game 3, the Rangers had already checked out, and Carolina completed the sweep.
Alexandar Georgiev is set to start Saturday against the Devils in Newark, with Keith Kinkaid serving as his backup should Shesterkin be unavailable. Kinkaid, who played parts of six seasons with the Devils to start his NHL career, has been practicing with the Rangers this season as part of their taxi squad.
The possibility of losing Shesterkin for any amount of time put a damper on what should’ve been a feel-good win for the Rangers. With roughly seven minutes left in the third period, Devils center Michael McLeod skated across the Rangers’ crease and clipped Shesterkin, causing him to fall with his right knee bent awkwardly under his body.
On his next lateral movement to get in front of a shot by Devils defenseman Damon Severson, Shesterkin collapsed to the ice and appeared to be favoring the same leg he had bent on the previous play. He was unable to leave the ice by himself, keeping just his left skate on the ice with his right leg stretched out behind him.
Shesterkin has been emerging at the Rangers’ No. 1 goalie, starting in five of the last eight games. He has a 6-7-1 record with a 2.31 goals against average, as well as a .921 save percentage, in 15 games so far this season.
After allowing 10 goals through his first three starts of the season, Shesterkin held opponents to just one or two tallies in eight of his next 11 appearances. He is just the second rookie goaltender in Rangers history to appear in at least 15 of the team’s first 21 games of a season, joining Steve Weeks.
Along with Kinkaid, there are three other goalies the Rangers could turn to, if necessary. Adam Huska, in the final year of his entry-level contract, and Tyler Wall, who signed a one-year ELC in May 2020, have split time with AHL Hartford.
Dylan Garand, who is on an AHL deal and is set to go back to the WHL’s Kamloops when the Blazers’ training camp begins, has yet to sign with the Rangers. Once the WHL season begins, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has to play either in juniors or for the Rangers. Garand could be signed at any time, but it would eat up a year of his deal, making it less likely for him to be an option this season.