Everything happening in Rangerstown as of Thursday afternoon.
The Breadman always delivers
On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Rangers Twitter account surprised fans with a video of Artemi Panarin rejoining the team at practice.
Say it with us:
PRIVET, BREADMAN. pic.twitter.com/VANV62fn6r
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 10, 2021
Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba told the media that the team wasn’t certain Panarin would be back until he walked into breakfast on Wednesday morning.
#NYR teammates didn't know for sure that Panarin would be back today, but "heard rumblings."
Then, according to Jacob Trouba, "He walked into breakfast and everybody was pretty happy to see him."
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) March 10, 2021
Panarin hasn’t played since Feb. 20 after falling victim to assault accusations that date back almost 10 years.
Not long after Panarin voiced his support of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a former coach of his, Andrei Nazarov (a fervent supporter of Vladimir Putin), claimed that Panarin had assaulted a woman in a hotel 10 years ago.
The Rangers immediately issued a statement saying Panarin denies these allegations and that the organization is supporting him.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 22, 2021
Panarin took an indefinite leave of absence to clear his name and ensure the safety of his family.The fact that he has returned hopefully indicates that he’s dealt with the situation and feels comfortable enough to get back to playing hockey.
The Rangers need their best player back, and he’ll be able to rejoin the lineup as early as Saturday afternoon. This is especially important as the Rangers begin a very tough stretch in their schedule.
Panarin, a 2019-20 Hart Trophy finalist, has 18 points in 14 games this season.
Blast off, Kravtsov
The day Rangers fans have been waiting for has finally arrived. Top prospect Vitaly Kravtsov is on the way and will be making his NHL debut sooner rather than later.
The 21-year-old has spent the last few months with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL, where he had a fantastic season.
The Rangers revealed earlier this year that Kravtsov would remain in Russia for the entirety of the 2021 KHL season and then join the Rangers. Traktor did make it to the Gagarin Cup playoffs, but were eliminated in five games by Salavet Yulaev on Thursday.
It looks like Kravtsov will begin practicing with the Rangers in 10-14 days. The time frame accounts for travel and quarantine.
For those who have asked, I’ve been told to anticipate a 10-14 day transition for Vitali Kravtsov from the time Traktor is eliminated until he can start practicing with #NYR. That accounts for travel, quarantine, COVID protocols, etc. (Also discussed on this week’s pod.)
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) March 11, 2021
Kravtsov’s tenure as a Ranger hasn’t been the smoothest, but things are finally looking up for him. He had some issues in Hartford last season, but those have been put to bed, especially with his excellent play in Russia.
This season, Kravtsov recorded 24 points, including 16 goals, in 49 regular season games, and then scored two goals and five points in five playoff games.
Kravtsov, who’s projected to be a top-six NHL forward, should be given a major role upon joining the Rangers, but it’s unclear how head coach David Quinn will elect to use him.
Shesterkin still out
Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin is still day-to-day and has been ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins. The struggling Alexandar Georgiev will start in net.
Shesterkin suffered a groin strain on March 4th against the New Jersey Devils. The injury looked much worse than it was, as Shesterkin was unable to get off the ice alone.
Groin injuries are tricky, however, and while Shesterkin is day-to-day, it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to start next, but he has been practicing.
After a rough start to the season, Shesterkin has settled in nicely and was playing great hockey before going down with this injury.