New York Rangers center Matt Rempe takes a break during...

New York Rangers center Matt Rempe takes a break during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues, Saturday, March 9, 2024, in New York. Credit: AP/John Munson

Matt Rempe is enjoying all the attention. The Madison Square Garden video board has taken to showing a close-up of the rookie as he stretches during warmups, and when that happens, the early-arriving crowd cheers wildly.

Rempe tries to keep his game face on, but it’s not easy.

“I’m trying to hold in a smile, but I can’t,’’ he said before Monday night’s 3-1 victory over the Devils at the Garden. “Every time, I’m cracking a grin.’’

That was in the morning. Come Monday night, he again found himself a magnet for attention — both good and bad.

First, he used his 6-8 body to block the vision of Devils goalie Kaapo Kahkonen on the Rangers’ second goal, off a long shot by Erik Gustafsson.

That was the good part.

Then, 22 seconds later, he elbowed Jonas Siegenthaler in the head, was called for a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct, and later had Devils tough guy Kurtis MacDermid — who had been looking to fight Rempe all night — go after him verbally.

“There’s a right way to go about things and a wrong way,” MacDermid told reporters in the visiting locker room. “I kind of lost a lot of respect for him [Monday].”

The Rangers killed off that penalty and won the game, but it was another wild night in Rempe’s eventful 10-game NHL career.

The fans are chanting his name during games now. Every time he checks someone, the crowd roars. And on Saturday, when the Rangers were given a power play in the final minutes of their 4-0 win over St. Louis, the fans chanted, “We want Rempe!’’

“I heard that,’’ he said. “I was like, oh, that’s pretty cool. Then we’re out on the power play, and it’s like, sweet! Hopefully we get a goal. It didn’t happen, but it was nice to get a little PP time.’’

It has been more than a week since Rempe fought anyone, and his black eye looks almost fully healed. After bursting onto the NHL scene with three fights, plus an encounter with Siegenthaler in Newark on Feb. 24, in his first five games, Rempe had only one in his next five.

MacDermid wanted one on Monday. His next chance will come April 3 at the Garden. Rempe’s fans will be ready.

With Neil Best

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