NHL on NBCSN: Rangers get glimpse of future as Shesterkin makes debut

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin will get his first taste of the NHL when he starts Tuesday night against the Avalanche.

With Henrik Lundqvist not getting any younger and Alexandar Georgiev, who can become a restricted free agent this summer and is a potential trade chip, it’s time for Shesterkin, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2014, to show what he can do.

“It’s so important to me,” said Shesterkin after Monday’s practice. “It’s a really good day.”

Shesterkin, who will become the first Russian-born goaltender to play a game for the Rangers, has excelled through 23 games with AHL Hartford. He’s posted a .932 save percentage, tops among all AHL goalies with at least 1,000 minutes played, three shutouts, and has helped the Wolf Pack to a 15-4-3 record in games he’s played. He comes into his NHL debut after stopping 106 of the last 110 shots he’s faced.

This now means the Rangers will carry three goaltenders for the foreseeable future as long as Shesterkin plays well. It’s not an ideal situation and will only give rise to rumors that Georgiev will soon be on the move to a team looking for backup help.

“I just think it’s a natural progression when you have a guy playing as well as he was in the American Hockey League, you call him up and you give him an opportunity,” said Rangers head coach David Quinn. “Because of his position, it’s probably taken longer than it should have. If you had a defenseman or a forward that was doing the things that he was doing in the [AHL], he would have been up sooner.

“We’re just taking it right now day by day. That’s really all we’ve really thought about, the present right now. Right now, we’ve got three goalies. He played his way into this opportunity. It has nothing to do with Hank or Georgie. Those guys have really given us a chance most nights. It’s really more about Igor.”

[COVERAGE OF AVS-RANGERS BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Shesterkin’s contract features a clause that would allow him to leave North America to go back and play in Europe or the KHL. Also, he doesn’t require waivers should he be sent back to the AHL. Georgiev requires waivers now that he’s played 60 games.

Dubbed the successor to Lundqvist’s throne, what would strong play from Shesterkin mean for the future of The King, who is signed through the end of next season? That remains to be seen.

“He’s been doing really well in Hartford and preparing for his first opportunity up here,” said Lundqvist, who will serve as the backup Tuesday night. “The day-to-day approach for me doesn’t change. I can only control what I can control. The big change was really I’m going to say two years ago, when we decided as an organization to restart everything. For me, I have to just focus on my game and prepare and be ready for when I can play. But now, it’s an opportunity for Igor to play. [Georgiev] has been playing well when he’s been in net. I can’t look too far ahead. I have to take it day by day.”

The 24-year-old Shesterkin played five seasons in the KHL after being drafted. The Rangers and their fans have been waiting for his arrival for a long time and now that it’s arrived he’s eager to carve out a place on the NHL roster full-time.

“I had goal to come here [to North America] and try to play. But now I have a new goal,” Shesterkin said via the Rangers website. “I want to play hard, work hard every day. I want to play here.”

Tuesday night’s coverage will be hosted by Paul Burmeister with Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. John Forslund, Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire will call the action from Madison Square Garden.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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