Rangers' Mika Zibanejad, right, celebrates after scoring on New Jersey...

Rangers' Mika Zibanejad, right, celebrates after scoring on New Jersey Devils goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen (31) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 11, 2024. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

TAMPA, Fla. — There’s been something different about Mika Zibanejad recently.

“He's attacking the net,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said of Zibanejad Thursday, following the Blueshirts’ morning skate at Amalie Arena before their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He's got a mindset now where he's bringing pucks to the net . . . They've also got a new piece up on his line [newcomer Jack Roslovic]. The line has looked really good. And so that's positive.’’

Zibanejad scored the first goal in Monday’s 3-1 victory over the Devils. The goal was his first in 5-on-5 play since Dec. 23 — a span of 31 games. He had seven shots on goal that game, and followed that up with another four shots on goal the next night in the Rangers’ 1-0 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina.

“I guess the opportunities have presented themselves a little bit more,’’ Zibanejad said when asked about the reasons behind his recent forcefulness. “I think I played some better hockey now, too. When I do that, when I get skating, when I get shooting a little bit more, everything else opens up, I feel like.

“And sometimes I default, maybe, to being more of a passer than a shooter,’’ he continued. “And that takes away a little bit of my, I guess, aggressiveness coming towards the net, being around the net.’’

At 30 years old [he’ll be 31 next month], and with 831 games played in 12 seasons and 288 goals scored, Zibanejad isn’t immune to struggles with confidence. His goal Monday was his only point over the last eight games entering Thursday, and he admitted that when he isn’t scoring, his natural instinct is to focus his game on the defensive end, to make sure that if he isn’t scoring, at least he isn’t getting scored against.

But, he acknowledged, when you are the team’s No. 1 center, and you are not scoring, “the defense doesn’t matter.’’ So he’s tried the past few games to be “a little bit more in attacking mode when I have the puck, and I guess, a little bit more shot-first mentality.’’

There’s been a lot going on with the Rangers, and with Zibanejad, over the past eight days or so. Last Wednesday, two days before the NHL’s trade deadline, GM Chris Drury traded for center Alex Wennberg from the Seattle Kraken. That brought a fourth Swede into the locker room (before Adam Edstrom was returned to AHL Hartford) and a second former junior hockey teammate of Zibanejad’s in Sweden.

When Zibanejad joined the Rangers in 2016, there was a strong Swedish presence in the locker room, with Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast already on the team. But after the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist was bought out and Fast was allowed to leave as a free agent. That left Zibanejad as the only Swede on the roster for 2020-21. Defensemen Nils Lundkvist and Patrik Nemeth joined the team in 2021-22, but both were traded after that season, and Zibanejad was again the only Swede on the roster last season.

This season, Erik Gustafsson (a teammate of Zibanejad’s and Wennberg’s on Djurgarden, in Stockholm) joined the team as a free agent. His addition, and Wennberg’s, have made a difference to Zibanejad in terms of comfort.

“It means a lot,’’ he said the day Wennberg practiced with the team for the first time. “Even though I've been here in this organization, and this team, and the city for so long now . . . it's something different to be able to speak your own language, and just a familiar face [in Wennberg] as well. It makes you feel a little bit more like home as well. So that's definitely positive.’’

Another positive has been the addition of Roslovic, who has fit in well so far on the line with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

“He can obviously score, but he's a good passer as well, can skate well,’’ Zibanejad said of Roslovic. “And some of the chances that we've created have been off the forecheck as well. So in general, I’ve just obviously gotten some confidence back, and I’m playing a better game.’’

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