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Rangers Change Up Lines At Practice, Igor Shesterkin to Start vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Changes are coming to the lineup for tomorrow’s game vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers announced that Igor Shesterkin would get the start in goal.

It will be the rookie’s second start since the Rangers returned from the All-Star Break and bye week, and his first career matchup vs. the Maple Leafs. Many likely expected Alexandar Georgiev to get the start in goal after playing well against them in previous matchups, along the rumors linking the netminder to Toronto. But, he did get action in the third period on Monday, and the Rangers decided to give Shesterkin another big opportunity to show what he can do.

There appears to be some changes in the forward lines as well, and some of them could be dependent on whether Chris Kreider re-enters the lineup.

If Kreider is out of the lineup, Brendan Smith would likely enter the mix, and we could see lines similar to the one that started vs. Dallas.

These lines standout for a few reasons, the first of which being that it would see the separation of Artemiy Panarin and Ryan Strome. Strome has been in a goal-scoring rut and hasn’t scored since January 9 vs. the New Jersey Devils.

Panarin and Strome have been running mates almost all season long, and if they end up being spilt, it’ll be interesting to see how long they are kept apart.

This projected lineup would also see Filip Chytil return to the second line, and it would give him a chance to play more with Panarin. This season the two have logged 101 minutes in 5v5 situations per Evolving-Hockey, and have had some decent results. Chytil is stuck on 11 goals, the total he had in 75 games last season. Putting Panarin on his wing will provide an opportunity to get him going.

There’s also the potential that Kaapo Kakko will join the top line, although Pavel Buchnevich spent some time in practice on the top line as well. Kakko was playing with pace and confidence with Dallas, and rewarding him for his efforts is the right thing to do.

It should also be noted that Buchnevich, who scored a goal in the first, was benched by Quinn in the third period.

If it works out that Buchnevich is on the third line, him skating with Strome and Phillip Di Giuseppe would be a different line. Monday vs. the Dallas Stars was Di Giuseppe’s first as a Blueshirt, as he’s spent the majority of the season skating with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Rangers have called him up a few times this season, but each time it seemed to be just in case someone was unable to go.

Di Giuseppe’s played well with the Pack — 14-12-26 in 43 games — but career to date he’s not shown to be an offensive player at the NHL level. He’s tallied just 41 points in 150 career games, so I’d be interested to know what Quinn thinks he’ll be able to do on the third line.

Based on what he brings to the table, it might be better for him to skate on the fourth instead, and have Brett Howden or Brendan Lemieux, both who tallied a goal vs. Dallas, complete the line with Strome and Buchnevich/Kakko.

As the Rangers’ playoff dreams drift further out of view, I’d expect the team to try different combinations to assess what they have internally, and we may see some more bodies from Hartford gets looks if the team is aggressive at the deadline in trading impending free agents.

Frederik Andersen was injured during Monday’s game vs. the Florida Panthers, and he will not be available.

Michael Hutchinson will be between the pipes, and he’ll be backed up by Kasimir Kaskisuo. Wednesday’s game is a very important one for the Leafs, as they are currently on the outside looking in.

They’ve played much better since promoting Sheldon Keefe from the Toronto Marlies after firing Mike Babcock, and I’d expect them to come out with a lot of urgency after coming off a brutal loss to Florida.

While nothing is set in stone in terms of lines, it is clear the Rangers are looking to change things up. This could be the beginning of more changes based on where they currently sit in the Wild Card race, and a loss vs. Toronto on Wednesday could result in the team being more serious as to where they stand this season.