LOS ANGELES - -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, sidelined since he had surgery in late May to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, will return to the lineup on Monday night against the Kings.
After the Rangers practiced Friday, when Callahan skated on a line with center Brian Boyle and left wing Taylor Pyatt, coach Alain Vigneault was asked if Callahan would be in the lineup for the team's second game of the season. "Yes," Vigneault replied.
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A few moments before that, Callahan said he was targeting Monday. "That's my hope," he said. "It has to be 100 percent and right now, I feel good. I've been cleared for contact for a while."
Callahan, who was named captain before the 2011-12 season, injured the shoulder in a fight with Max Talbot of the Flyers last Jan. 29 but played through the injury the rest of the season, finishing with 31 points in 45 games. He had two goals and five points in 12 playoff games.
Vigneault again noted that if the decision had been up to Callahan, the right wing would have been playing by now.
Vigneault said he prefers to keep his top two lines -- Brad Richards-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash and Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello -- together and work Callahan into another line.
Presumably, Callahan also will be deployed on the penalty-kill, which was stretched thin against the Coyotes Thursday night. Last season, he averaged 2:33 per game shorthanded, one of the highest numbers among NHL forwards, and scored two goals.
Callahan, who will return from injured reserve, is much further along than Carl Hagelin, who had the same procedure on the same day. Hagelin, on long-term injured reserve, is ineligible for another nine games.
Callahan's comeback means rookie Jesper Fast, who played on the third line in Thursday night's 4-1 loss to the Coyotes in Phoenix, could be scratched or moved to the fourth line.
Fast, 21, who played 10:13, said he had "a pretty tough game" and found it hard to find a rhythm when he played so few minutes compared to the preseason games.
"That's not an excuse, though,'' he said. "Hopefully, if I get a chance to play again, I have to do better."