With Igor Shesterkin still day-to-day with a groin injury and Alexandar Georgiev fresh off his third mid-game benching of the season, Keith Kinkaid has been tapped as the starter for the Rangers’ game at Boston on Saturday afternoon.
It will be Kinkaid’s second start of his Rangers tenure since getting called up from the taxi squad earlier this month, shortly after Shesterkin sustained what was described as a “mild” groin strain in a March 4 win over the Devils.
Saturday will mark the fifth straight game for which Shesterkin has been unavailable, which adds further speculation that his injury wasn’t actually “mild.”
“It’s really a nagging situation,” head coach David Quinn said Friday of Shesterkin’s injury. “We don’t think it’s anything long-term. It’s just turning a little bit longer than we thought. But you could wake up tomorrow and be in a good position and play sooner than later, so it really is day-to-day.”
Kinkaid, who signed a two-year, $1.65 million deal with the Rangers as a free agent in October, has made three appearances in net so far this season — two of which were in relief of Georgiev.
In 42:46 of ice time in the Rangers’ 5-1 loss in Pittsburgh last week, Kinkaid kept the team competitive and stopped 16 of the 18 shots he faced. He made his first start as a Ranger the next game against the Penguins, but a defensive breakdown led to a 4-2 defeat despite Kinkaid’s 23-save performance.
Georgiev let up four goals on 14 shots in the 4-0 loss to the Bruins on Thursday, prompting Quinn to deploy Kinkaid. The 31-year-old, in his eighth NHL season, turned aside all 13 shots he faced in relief.
In an attempt to generate any sort of offense in Thursday’s shutout loss, Quinn pieced together Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko on what he called “the kid line.”
The trio, with a median age of 20, logged just 5:12 of ice time together and generated three shots. Asked if that was a line he was considering keeping together, Quinn said there were things he liked about it.
“There were some good signs as the game was going on and they were getting a little bit more familiar with each other,” he said. “So that’s something we certainly going to experiment with moving forward.”
The Bruins’ Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak trio is described as “The Perfection Line” for a reason, and it was on full display Thursday against the Rangers.
With two goals, five shots and four hits — including three assists from Marchand alone — the Bruins’ top line had its way with the Rangers.
“There’s no doubt they’re one of the best lines in the league,” Ryan Strome said. “I think you just see the chemistry they have, I think sometimes that doesn’t look like they’re creating too much then boom. They get just great opportunities. That’s definitely a challenge for us, I think we’ve done a pretty good job against them this year. It’s going to be pretty hard to stop them all together.
“I think that’s kind of a trend they’ve set for the season. … I think we just have to focus a little bit more attention to detail, I think just be more aware of where they are, talk more as a group.”