If it seems like Henrik Lundqvist is playing a lot, it’s because he is. The club’s disappointing 4-1 loss to the visiting Golden Knights on Monday night was the 37-year-old goalie’s seventh start in the past nine games, along with his 10th start (and 11th game played) in the past 14 games.
But rest assured, general manager Jeff Gorton is well aware 23-year-old backup Alexandar Georgiev is set to play career game No. 55 against the Blue Jackets on Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio, (followed by Lundqvist again on Friday night at home against the Canadiens). When Georgiev gets to career game No. 60, he will no longer be waiver-exempt and essentially can’t be sent to AHL Hartford. (It wouldn’t make sense for the club to expose him for the rest of the league to pick up for free.)
Georgiev has done nothing to warrant a demotion, with a 3.07 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 11 games played, including a 33-save shutout against the Devils on Saturday in Newark. But after Thursday, the organization has four more games with Georgiev before it has to make a difficult decision.
Igor Shesterkin is biding his time in Hartford, but for how much longer before his out clause going back to Russia looks attractive — just as it did to his buddy Vitali Kravtsov? Shesterkin, 23, has excelled in his first 13 games in North America, putting up a 2.05 goals-against average and .927 save percentage for the first-place (by percentage) Wolf Pack.
If Georgiev gets to No. 60, then he is likely to stay with the team for the foreseeable future and Shesterkin with Hartford. The lead-up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline would be the next time of possible movement, if Georgiev’s stock rises enough to draw reasonable interest around the league.
But before then, it’s figuring out the split between Georgiev and Lundqvist, whom the team still wants to play less than he has in years past.
Following this back-to-back, the Rangers go on a four-game western trip, beginning in Vegas and followed by the three California cities. It starts a sequence of eight games in 15 days leading into the three-day Christmas break. They come out with a home game against the Hurricanes on Dec. 27, then the next night in Toronto that starts a New Year’s trip in western Canada.