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Brendan Lemieux returns, plays his first game for Rangers since late December

Brendan Lemieux of the Rangers battles for the

Brendan Lemieux of the Rangers battles for the puck during the third period against Dylan McIlrath of the Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Brendan Lemieux apparently talked his way into the Rangers’ lineup Sunday.

The 24-year-old winger, who had missed nine games with a broken bone in his left hand, came off injured reserve and dressed for the Blueshirts’ 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, replacing Micheal Haley.

Coach David Quinn was asked if he initially had hoped to hold out Lemieux for the final two games before the All-Star break and have him come back after the bye week. “Yes,’’ he said. “He was lobbying for the Islander game [Thursday].’’

Lemieux had been riding shotgun on the third line, with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, at the time he was injured. Since he’s been out, 21-year-old Brett Howden, usually a center, has taken his place on the left wing of that line.

Because that trio has been playing well of late, Quinn opted to keep them together at the start of the game, at least. Lemieux started out on the fourth line, playing with center Greg McKegg and right wing Brendan Smith.

In the third period, Quinn dropped Pavel Buchnevich to the fourth line and moved Lemieux up to the top line, playing with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, who switched from left to right wing.

“[Buchnevich has] been sick,’’ Quinn said. “I just didn’t think he had it tonight, especially the end of that second period.

“I thought Lemieux had energy. Usually that’s what happens when you come back from being out. You have energy and play at a pace, so I figured I’d put him out there.’’

“I felt really good,’’ Lemieux said. “Obviously, you’ve got to take some adjustment time to feel the puck and whatnot, but I felt good.’’

Notes & quotes: Winger Phillip Di Giuseppe, who was called up from AHL Hartford Jan. 12, again was a healthy scratch, along with Haley. Di Giuseppe has been scratched three times on his current recall and has yet to play a game for the Rangers . . . Jesper Fast played in the 399th game of his NHL/Rangers career  . . . Brady Skjei has seven goals, one short of his career high . . . Zibanejad led the team with six shots on goal . . . The Rangers won only 18 of 44 faceoffs (41%).

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