The news keeps getting better for the Rangers and Igor Shesterkin, as their presumptive No. 1 goalie had a full practice Friday without sharing his net and could be ready to start Saturday night’s Garden match against the Devils, less than two weeks after he suffered a non-displaced rib fracture in a car accident on Feb. 23 in Brooklyn.
“He looked good,” coach David Quinn said after practice.
Though the original timeline had Shesterkin set to be reevaluated in “a couple of weeks,” Quinn said he still needed to consult with his training staff, but did not rule out the 24-year-old Russian returning Saturday.
“There’s a chance he could play,” Quinn said.
In his first season in North America, Shesterkin was called up from AHL Hartford on Jan. 6 and became just the fourth player in NHL history to win at least nine of his first 10 games. He has a 2.23 goals-against average and .940 save percentage after taking the reins of the three-goalie situation from Alex Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist.
Georgiev and Lundqvist shared a net for Friday’s practice. Georgiev has started five of the six games since Shesterkin got hurt, including the 3-1 loss to the Blues on Monday and the dramatic 6-5 win over the Capitals on Thursday — neither game his best performance of the season.
Lundqvist has started just four games since Shesterkin was called up, his most recent a 5-3 loss to the Flyers on Sunday afternoon — the eve of his 38th birthday — which was his first start since Feb. 3.
Rookie winger Kaapo Kakko practiced Friday in the spot in which he ended Thursday night — on the fourth line, next to Brendan Lemieux and Greg McKegg. That moved Julien Gauthier up to the right side with Brett Howden (on the left) and Filip Chytil.
Gauthier has played nine games for the Rangers since he was acquired from the Hurricanes for defenseman Joey Keane. He has managed just one assist, but has shown glimpses of his enticing speed, size and skill.
“He had only played four NHL games before he got here, so you want to ease him in a little bit,” Quinn said. “But we really like a lot of what we’ve seen so far.”
Even though the Devils are ostensibly out of the playoff picture, Quinn did not think his team was primed for a letdown following such an emotional high on Thursday night.
“This is the Devils, they’re one of our rivals, there are 15 games left and we’re two points out of a playoff spot,” Quinn said. “I don’t know how much more this game can mean to our guys.”