David Quinn

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Panarin continues to deliver for Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Washington Capitals 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.

A strong offensive season for Artemi Panarin in his first year on Broadway may go to waste if the Rangers don’t find a way to get themselves into the playoffs. But this year is a transition one for the franchise, as they incorporate new faces and plenty of youth in hopes of making big strides in the future.

Panarin’s done all he’s been ask to do through 18 games. He leads the Rangers with nine goals and 23 points and has continued to produce in the absence of Mika Zibanejad, who will miss his 10th straight game Wednesday against the Capitals but is expected to return to the lineup soon.

Helping Panarin deliver the bread has been Ryan Strome, who’s second on the team in scoring with six goals and 18 points. The duo have worked together so well that head coach David Quinn isn’t sure he’ll remove Strome from the top line once Zibanejad is healthy.

“Stromer’s a smart player, I think they complement each other well,” Quinn said. “[Panarin] enjoys playing with him. [Jesper] Fast has given that line a little bit of honesty, a little bit of a straight-line approach to the game where those two guys might be a little more East-West. I think the line in general has a good balance to it.”

When the Rangers went free agent shopping in the summer, they had already added to their blue line with the additions of Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. General manager Jeff Gorton was looking for a difference-maker and Panarin fit that mold perfectly.

[COVERAGE OF RANGERS-CAPITALS BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“I think the past couple years we’ve been looking for a guy to lean on a little bit,” said Fast, the third part of New York’s top line. “You have a guy who’s always like creating and always is a threat in the offensive zone every time he gets the puck. That’s what we’re getting from him right now.”

Entering Wednesday, Panarin is riding an 11-game point streak (5-12–17) and has gone pointless in only three games this season. He’s been an offensive dynamo for his entire career, hitting at least 74 points in each of his four NHL seasons. His talent makes those around him better, and that’s all the Rangers can ask as they look to develop a lineup that can turn into a consistent winner.

“He challenges you to be better based on how skilled he is,” Strome said. “You want to keep up to him and make plays. It’s been really fun, honestly.”

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Capitals-Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

NHL on NBC analyst and 2019 NHL Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador Eddie Olczyk discusses his career and fight with colon cancer in an interview with Kathryn Tappen in a 30-minute special Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN following Wednesday Night Hockey. Olczyk was named the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador earlier this month and November marks Hockey Fights Cancer Month throughout the league. You can watch it live here.

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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.

Rangers’ Kakko showing his potential, swagger

Imagine being told at age 18 that you have landed the job of your dreams.

The only caveats: it would be more than 4,000 miles from your hometown and the cultural and language differences are substantial.

For Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko, this was the reality he faced after the New York Rangers selected him second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.

With three goals and a shootout tally over the past two games, Kakko is starting to acclimate to his new surroundings.

“There is just a whole new level of swagger to him that I hadn’t seen since he got here,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “Not only on the ice, but off the ice. There is a comfort level that he is attaining, and you could see it in his face. There is a lot more smiling and a lot more swagger.”

Kakko never doubted his hockey ability but needed time to familiarize himself with a new lifestyle in a new city before his on-ice skills could match the lofty expectations that came with his premium draft position.

The challenges facing young professional athletes from overseas are often overlooked, yet quite extensive when put in perspective.

“He works so hard, it’s not easy coming over here as an 18-year-old and not speaking the language,” Chris Kreider, a former Rangers’ first-round pick, said of Kakko. “When I was 18, I was struggling to play college hockey. I was a little homesick and I was 45 minutes away from home.”

Teammate Brendan Lemieux spent two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets before being traded to the Rangers and saw firsthand how Patrik Laine also made the transition from being a teenager in Finland to playing in the NHL. Laine, 21, also had heavy expectations from the start after being selected second overall in 2016..

“He’s (Kakko) smarter than 99 percent of young, skilled hockey players that I have ever played it with,” Lemieux said. “He has figured out already, which takes a lot of guys five or six years, that simplicity can lead to offense. It’s pretty incredible to see and he is fun to play with.”

New York’s top line center Mika Zibanejad has been dealing with a neck injury but should return to action in the coming weeks, which will alter the makeup of the Rangers’ forward combinations. Kakko has excelled on the Rangers’ third line in recent games, but is he ready for a more prominent role?

“He’s not going to be intimidated from any other challenge that is presented to him,” Quinn said. “I’m not worried about moving him up [the lineup].”

Whether he moves up in the depth chart now or continues to work his way up throughout the season, Kakko is quickly becoming one of New York’s most dynamic players.

“I think he’s continuing to build on his confidence level,” Quinn said. “He has certainly proven that he can have success this year in the National Hockey League, that’s for sure.”

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Lundqvist in uncharted territory with Rangers

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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.

Rangers point to power play struggles after loss to Devils

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The Rangers were ecstatic to get back on the ice after a four-day hiatus from game action, but the result was not what they had in mind.

Jack Hughes recorded his first point, P.K. Subban netted his first goal for the Devils and New Jersey snapped several droughts in its 5-2 victory over the Rangers on Thursday.

Tony DeAngelo and Jesper Fast both scored while Alexandar Georgiev made 33 saves in the Rangers’ second consecutive loss.

Rangers power play woes

The Rangers will need their power play to fire on all cylinders if they expect to contend for a playoff spot this season.

Over the past two games, the Rangers have failed on 10 consecutive man-advantage opportunities, including six missed chances against the Devils.

“That’s probably as sluggish as we looked on the power play all year,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “You can’t alter your approach when you don’t score a goal. You can build momentum off a good power play if you don’t score. I just thought we started getting away from the things we have been doing during the exhibition season and the three games we played.”

Seemingly, the momentum can swing the other way, too. The Rangers’ power play failures began to pile up through the course of 60 minutes.

“As the game goes on, the more chances there are, the more the opponent knows what you are trying to do,” defenseman Jacob Trouba said after playing over seven minutes on the PP. It almost gets a little tougher as the game goes on and you have that many power plays.”

Four games and a handful of opportunities provide a small sample size in terms of power play production. But, without consistent offensive production on special teams, the Rangers are going to struggle to win games.

DeAngelo aims to carve out role

DeAngelo notched his first goal of the season to open the scoring at 6:02 of the first period. The offensive-minded defenseman sensed a scoring opportunity and cashed in on the rebound.

This past summer, DeAngelo was forced to sign a one-year contract due to lack of leverage during negotiations. The 23-year-old began the season knowing he would have to prove himself on a daily basis.

A right-handed defenseman with the ability to move the puck and potential to run a power play is a sought-after commodity in the NHL. Teams are often scrambling to fill that need or rearranging other pieces throughout their lineup to cover up an obvious hole.

However, DeAngelo is on a team that has multiple options at the position due to a busy summer. The Rangers acquired Jacob Trouba and added another offensive-minded defenseman in Adam Fox, essentially filling the role DeAngelo was supposed to play.

But the Rangers are doing their part to give DeAngelo an opportunity to dress consistently. In order to make it work, Brendan Smith has been playing as a fourth line forward to give the backend an extra penalty killer.

For DeAngelo, a goal is a step in the right direction, but he will need to continue to demonstrate to David Quinn and the coaching staff that he is worthy of a spot in the Rangers everyday lineup.

Strange schedule

In a game built off rhythm and tendencies, the Rangers have had to overcome a few strange schedule quirks to open up the 2019-20 NHL season.

The Blueshirts have only played in four games over the past 16 days and have had trouble fine-tuning the specific nuances of the sport.

“We have to understand situational hockey. The good news is we get to play more hockey and understand it better, Quinn said. “It’s tough to emulate it in practice. We are going to be able to draw from what happened today and be better for it tomorrow.”

It is not often a team looks forward to a back-to-back, but the Rangers are eager to play with more regularity. On Friday, they play against the Washington Capitals before beginning a five-game homestand.

“We want to play hockey games, it’s the only way you can really get better in this league,” Quinn said.

MORE: Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV Schedule

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.