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Prospect Libor Hajek makes NHL debut for Rangers

Libor Hajek skates during Rangers prospect camp at

Libor Hajek skates during Rangers prospect camp at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. on June 26, 2018. Credit: James Escher

Rookie defenseman Libor Hajek made his NHL debut for the Rangers in Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens at the Garden.

Hajek, 21, who was called up from Hartford (AHL) on Thursday, became the sixth player age 21 or younger to play for the Rangers this season, matching the team mark set in the 1989-90 season.

Hajek struggled in Hartford but certainly didn’t look out of place in his first NHL game. He looked composed, played a strong 17:35 and drew praise afterward.

“I thought Libor had a really good night,’’ coach David Quinn said. “I thought he was poised, I thought he was fluid. I thought he defended well, he looked confident with the puck — I liked a lot of his game.’’

“Loved his game. Loved it,’’ Henrik Lundqvist said. “He looks so poised, smart. Great skater. So many good things about his game. That was great to see him be out there, play a lot of minutes and do it really well.’’

“It was beautiful,’’ said Hajek, who was partnered with Neal Pionk. “I was waiting for that all my life, working out hard all my life, so it was a great feeling. Every shift I was on the ice, I had the feeling in my head everywhere. It was great.’’

Hajek admitted that while he may have looked calm, cool and collected, he was plenty nervous.

“Lots of times, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I don’t even realize where I am, this great organization in New York,’  ’’ he said. “That’s beautiful.’’

Hajek, a first-year pro, had no goals and five assists in 58 games for the Wolf Pack. His minus-26 rating was the worst on the team.

Blue notes

D Freddie Claesson came out of the lineup to make room for Hajek . . . Rookie F Filip Chytil, Hajek’s fellow Czech and good friend, was a healthy scratch.

New York Sports