Rangers look to keep rolling vs. improving Blackhawks

Blackhawks

With a five-game winning streak and victories in nine of their past 10 outings, the New York Rangers head into their Saturday home clash with the Chicago Blackhawks breathing rarified air.

Even their bad news these days apparently is minimal.

The Rangers saw No. 1 goalie Igor Shesterkin depart due to injury early in the third period Friday during a 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks, and Alexandar Georgiev took over between the pipes.

Not only did Georgiev complete the shared shutout — which bodes well when the Rangers meet the Blackhawks, as he was always slated to take the starting assignment — but the early prognosis for Shesterkin was as good as could be hoped.

“They’re telling me it’s not as bad as it looks,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said postgame. “It’s not major yet. … The trainer just said don’t worry about it. That’s all he told me, minor lower-body (injury).”

The Rangers have also won seven straight home games, their longest spree at Madison Square Garden in four years, in which they have outscored opponents 25-13. The Rangers look much better compared to last season’s team that missed the playoffs, case in point being how they held strong to beat the Sharks.

“I think we’ve grown a lot in the last year or two and we’re able to handle these things no matter who goes down,” said Ryan Strome, whose first-period power-play goal was the winner Friday. “We’ve had a ton of games where we’ve played with 11 forwards because guys get hurt or whatever. I think guys responded well on the bench, just tightened up and made sure we helped (the goalie) out.”

With an assist on Strome’s goal, Rangers defenseman Adam Fox is riding a five-game streak in which he has collected seven assists.

The Blackhawks arrive in the Big Apple after claiming a 4-3 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday to kick off a three-game road trip. Chicago, which netted its first win in Washington in nearly 16 years, has won two of three games — both in extra time — and seven of 10 affairs in a much-needed turnaround after a rough start to the season.

“We always talk about greasy road wins,” said defenseman Seth Jones, who collected one goal and one assist in the Washington victory. “The crowd’s not on our side, we have to create our own energy and you don’t do that by turning pucks over and giving them odd-man rushes.

“I thought we did a great job of taking the crowd out of it in the first (period), sticking to our game, keeping it low eventful and just giving ourselves a chance.”

The victory came at a price, however. Defenseman Connor Murphy left the game early in the second period after a hard check from Washington star Alex Ovechkin, and the team announced on Friday that he had been placed in concussion protocol.

“Those are tough,” Chicago interim coach Derek King said. “It’s an individual thing. Some guys recover quicker than others; some guys it takes a little longer. It depends on how bad the concussion was.”

The Blackhawks may be able to fill the hole on defense in a hurry, however, as Riley Stillman appears ready to return after sustaining a knee injury nearly two weeks ago. Stillman has collected two assists in 12 games this season.

–Field Level Media

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