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Jesper Fast making case to stay in Rangers' lineup

New York Rangers right wing Jesper Fast skates

New York Rangers right wing Jesper Fast skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

So far this season, the Rangers' youngsters who have received much of the media attention are 19-year-old Anthony Duclair, center Kevin Hayes, who made the team out of Boston College, and J.T. Miller, who has five goals in 12 games since his recall at Thanksgiving.

But Jesper Fast, a Swedish right wing whom coach Alain Vigneault has nicknamed "Quickie," has made a case to stay in the lineup with defensive savvy and increased physical play that have earned him ice time in front of some veterans.

In addition to a game-high six hits Saturday, Fast, 23, scored his third goal in 23 games on a wrister that appeared to be stopped by the pad of Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth. A video review showed that Enroth's leg was in the net and the puck was completely across the goal line.

"I thought it was in, but I lost sight of it," the 6-foot, 185-pound Fast said. "Even after the first replay, I wasn't sure."

Fast has put on 20 pounds since being drafted in 2010 and is stronger and more assertive than last season. He began the year with Hartford after scoring 17 goals for the Wolf Pack last season and still is unsure of a spot in the lineup. With Hayes, Carl Hagelin, Dominic Moore and Miller as the locks on the third and fourth lines, Fast has to prove himself daily along with veterans Lee Stempniak and Tanner Glass.

"We need those good defensive instincts that he [Fast] seems to have," Vigneault said, "but whether it be Dom's line or Kevin's line, we need some offensive contributions from those guys. That's how you win on a consistent basis."

Fast has played with Hayes and Hagelin in the past two wins after being replaced by Glass in the 3-2 loss in Dallas.

"That line is playing well right now. They're spending a lot of time in the other team's end," Vigneault said. "It would be beneficial to them if they would shoot the puck a little bit more when the opportunity is there, when you've got that lane open for a fraction of a second. A lot of times, like we say on the PK, the toughest thing to defend is the shot. I think those guys right now may be looking for one extra play that they don't need to look for."

Fast also has played on the fourth line and adjusts accordingly. "With Kevin, I get more shifts in the offensive zone," Fast said. "With Dom, it's more in the defensive zone. But whatever line I'm on, I've got to play strong and do more."

That's in line with Vigneault's expectations.

"It's a different team than last year, when we were built more of three lines and a real strong fourth line that killed penalties," he said.

Time on ice between the third and fourth lines "is not significantly different," Vigneault said, "so whether you want to say they're both third lines or both fourth lines, they can both bring us something offensively, and we need that."

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