Mika Zibanejad’s 5 Goals for the Rangers Help Bring the Playoffs Into View
The chance to be in this position seemed remote before goalie Igor Shesterkin was recalled from A.H.L. Hartford on Jan. 6 and made his much-anticipated first start in a victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The 24-year-old went 9-1-0 after his debut before fracturing a rib in a car accident in Brooklyn, with teammate Pavel Buchnevich as his passenger. Buchnevich was shaken but didn’t suffer any serious injuries. He missed two games and returned to the Rangers’ lineup on Feb. 28.
In Shesterkin’s absence, Alexandar Georgiev has played solidly, while Henrik Lundqvist, who turned 38 earlier this week, continues to dress as a backup. Lundqvist had his first start in almost a month on Sunday, a disheartening 5-3 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. In his previous start on Feb. 3 against Dallas, he was blitzed for four goals on 15 shots before being pulled after two periods. It appears likely that Georgiev will play the bulk of the remaining games until Shesterkin, who skated with the team on Thursday, is able to return.
“My job is to come here and give it my all and just be ready when given the opportunity to play,” Lundqvist said. “And when I’m not playing. I try to be supportive to the guys that are playing. That’s what you should do.”
Lundqvist has one year left on his contract, and in his 15th year with the Rangers, his future is murky. The team could buy out his contract, Lundqvist could waive his no-trade clause or he could retire, assured that his Hall of Fame credentials are set.
“It’s been a very unique situation. Whatever happens, you have to try to help the team,” Lundqvist said last week.
After facing the Devils on Saturday, the Rangers will play nine of their last 14 games on the road, where, Rangers Coach David Quinn, said the young squad will get a primer on the rigors of a playoff chase.
The development of standout defensemen Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, both 22 years old, has been a revelation for a team in search of a core to build upon. Lindgren’s emergence as a physical force alongside Fox allowed the Rangers to trade Brady Skjei to Carolina last week to free up salary cap space. Fox, with seven goals and 29 assists in his rookie season, has impressed Quinn with his playmaking.