Rangers’ Libor Hajek a healthy scratch for seventh game in a row

TAMPA, Fla. — It looks like a case of same time next year for Libor Hajek, who appears to have settled into a role as the club’s seventh defender, after being a healthy scratch for the seventh consecutive time in the Thursday’s game against the Lightning. .

The 24-year-old was edged out on the depth chart by Ben Harpur, who was recalled from the AHL’s Wolf Pack on Dec. 3 when he traded places with Zac Jones. After spending his first five NHL games in street clothes, the 27-year-old grabbed the spot on the third pair alongside right-hander Braden Schneider.

« I love his height, and I don’t compare him to anyone else, but what Harpur brings is a big body, he’s a physical guy when it’s needed and I think other players and other teams know that, » head coach Gerard said. Gallant said ahead of the Blueshirts’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Lightning on Thursday night. “He moves the puck well and just does steady work.

Libor Hajek
NHLI via Getty Images

« I’m not trying to say Libor isn’t what it is, but Libor was a different player. I wanted Libor to take this place, I wanted Jonesy to take this place, and they came and played good games and then fell again. « So that’s what I’m trying to say. I wish those guys had played better on a regular basis. When they got him, Harpur came on and played a game and a bit like Schneider last year, it’s only a small amount and five or six games but he did a job and we are happy.

Sammy Blais was reinstated in the lineup after two healthy scratches that followed his unruly penalty late in the second period of the Dec. 20 game at Pittsburgh that had him unceremoniously benched the remainder of that 3- 2.

The winger, who is still trying to find footing after missing almost all of last season due to his November 15 knee injury and subsequent surgery, says the coaching staff will not didn’t necessarily explain to him why he was out of the lineup, but that, “I kind of knew after that penalty.

« I deserved to be scratched, I think. I’m just happy to be back in the lineup now.

Blais has five points (0-5) in 31 games this season, nine points (0-9) in 45 games with the blue jersey. But he’s not here to swing or dance. He’s in training to bring a degree of physicality to a team that doesn’t have many players who play with an average mentality.

« Physics, energy, » Blais said. “Playing on the fourth line is my job.

The 26-year-old pending unrestricted free agent, who lined up in this one in a unit with Jonny Brodzinski in the middle and Jimmy Vesey on the right, delivered four hits in 10:02, including a hard hit in second period on Vladislav. Namestnikov in front of the Tampa Bay bench. The winger was credited with 104 hits among forwards.

« I mean, I haven’t played for a year, so there are times when I would like to be better, but I just try to stay positive, » Blais said. « My knee is 100 per cent, so it’s just confidence, I think, to get back to where I was before. »

Namestnikov also received a first-period hit from Jacob Trouba that prompted Zach Bogosian to chase the captain about 100 feet before turning away. … Blueshirts finished the calendar year 61-28-8, including their 10-10 playoff mark. The team kicks off 2023 on Sunday in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers.


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