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Shesterkin comes off IR, Nemeth enters COVID protocol

Igor’s back and some troubling news about the team’s veteran Swedish d-man

New York Rangers v New York Islanders Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

Today, the New York Rangers have announced the much-anticipated return of Igor Shesterkin from the IR. Unexpectedly, the team also announced that veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth has entered COVID protocol — which makes him one of dozens of players around the league who are being kept off the ice for the safety of others and themselves.

Goaltender Keith Kinkaid has also been sent back down to the AHL to play with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Shesterkin hasn’t been in the lineup since Dec. 3 when the Rangers defeated the San Jose Sharks in a 1-0 victory. The Russian netminder made 19 saves in the game but was forced to make an early exit in the third period with a lower-body injury.

San Jose Sharks v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Although Alexandar Georgiev’s recent play has been noteworthy, much of the Rangers’ success this season has to do with the play of Shesterkin. At the time of his injury, he had a scintillating .937 Sv% and 13 wins in 17 starts. With Igor in net, the Rangers have lost just three games in regulation this season — an interesting stat when you consider the fact that the Blueshirts have won one of their last four games.

In his first 30 games with the Rangers, Patrik Nemeth has picked up two assists while averaging 17:06 TOI/GP. Thus far, he has been an underwhelming presence on the blue line in the first year of his three-year deal. Nemeth, 29, has been in the lineup every night of the season.

The Rangers don’t return to action again until Wednesday when they host the miserable Montreal Canadiens at the Garden at 7:00 p.m. ET. Hopefully, if there is an outbreak in the locker room, it can be kept under control so that the Rangers don’t enter an unofficial state of emergency like we’ve seen with other teams around the league. Just today, the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators shut down through the holiday break while other games around the league have been postponed.