Wednesday Night Hockey: Lundqvist in uncharted territory with Rangers

(Getty Images)
2 Comments

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Henrik Lundqvist will find himself in unfamiliar territory when the Rangers face the Red Wings on Wednesday Night Hockey.

The 37-year-old goaltender will start for the first time since being pulled after two periods against the Boston Bruins last week. Alexandar Georgiev has guarded the crease the previous three games and continues to push for more ice time with steady play between the pipes.

Lundqvist has allowed 16 goals in his previous five starts and has picked up only one victory over that span.

“This is all part of the big picture,” Rangers coach David Quinn said before Monday’s game against Ottawa when he announced Georgiev would play his third in a row. “Managing the amount of games Hank is going to play. I know it may be a big deal that he hasn’t played in three in a row, but when the dust settles and 82 games finish, Hank is going to play a lot of hockey for us.”

Quinn will never disrespect one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, especially in a public forum, but his job is to guide the Rangers in the right direction and keep one eye on the future.

Despite a hiccup against the Senators on Monday, which had more to do with the skaters than the goaltending, Georgiev has picked up where he left off last season. The 23-year-old has established himself as a trustworthy backup but still needs to prove he can handle a larger workload to be considered a future starting goalie.

Another factor in the future goaltending equation is Igor Shesterkin. A 2014 fourth-round pick, Shesterkin has emerged as one of the organization’s top prospects and is off to a terrific start in the American Hockey League in his first season in North America. The 23-year-old Russian was named AHL goaltender of the month for October when he posted a 5-1-0 record coupled with a sparkling 1.49 goals against average.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

With a prized prospect sitting in Hartford waiting for an opportunity and a promising backup pushing for more playing time, the question has to be asked how much should Lundqvist play?

Quinn has already made one tough decision when he benched Marc Staal against the Lightning last week and in the two subsequent games, marking the first time the alternate captain was a healthy scratch in his 13-year career with New York.

“Every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to sit out,” Quinn said of the decision to scratch Staal. “I know people have a hard time with it, they don’t like hearing it, and I don’t want anyone to enjoy it. But it was something I felt was needed.”

With a new era of Rangers hockey on the horizon, Quinn and the front office will be forced to make several painful choices as new talent continues to emerge.

If Lundqvist and Staal want to continue to don the Rangers sweater, they’ll need to earn their roster spots over and over again with each opportunity. It might not be fair for two players that have been part of one of the most successful periods in the organization’s history, but that’s the sandbox these two signed up to play in when they became NHL players.

Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones and NHL insider Darren Dreger. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Red Wings-Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.

NBC Sports will premiere “The Russian Five” documentary, a feature on the first five Russians to play hockey together in the NHL, Wednesday, November 6, following Wednesday Night Hockey between the Red Wings and Rangers. The documentary tells the story of how Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, and Igor Larionov were able to defect from their homeland and transform the Detroit Red Wings into perennial contenders and back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.