Rangers’ Lundqvist starts vs. Hurricanes; Shesterkin ‘unfit to play’


New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (30) watches Minnesota Wild players during the first period on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

TORONTO – The puck didn’t yet have a chance to drop on the National Hockey League’s return to play before the hockey world was gifted the playoffs’ first juicy storyline.

Henrik Lundqvist, the face of the New York Rangers, led his club onto the ice for warm-ups and will start Game 1 of the qualification round versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Rangers had remained tight-lipped over whom would get the nod, Lundqvist or rookie Igor Shesterkin. The two goaltenders split duties in the club’s one exhibition game.

Shesterkin has been deemed "unfit to play," and Alexandar Georgiev will back up Saturday afternoon.

Shesterkin, 24, went a sparkling 10-2, with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, during his freshman season and was the slight favourite to start.

“You can make a case for all three guys,” coach David Quinn said during camp. “There’s a lot of reasons to take Shesty, there’s a lot of reasons to start Hank, and there’s reasons to start Georgie.

“Hank’s history factors in. Shesty’s season factors in. Everything factors in. We’re going to consider everything when we make that decision. For every player, the time that we have between when we start practising and the start of the games is going to be pivotal, but none more so than our goalies.”

Lundqvist, a 38-year-old future Hall of Famer, still has one season beyond this on his contract with the club, but has seen his status slip over the course of 2019-20.

"The King" appeared in a career-low 30 games (10-12-3) and watched his save percentage drop to a career-low .905.

Lundqvist is a playoff performer, though, with a career .922 save percentage in the postseason.

Petr Mrazek gets the nod over James Reimer for the Hurricanes’ net.

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