The defenseman, who has missed six games after separating his left shoulder on Dec. 10, said after Friday’s practice that he feels game-ready and hopes to be part of the lineup when the Rangers face Nashville on Saturday night.
“Today was the first time that I was able to really bump some guys around and get knocked around myself,” said Shattenkirk, who also practiced on Thursday morning. “It felt like I kind of checked off some boxes and felt good working through it.”
Shattenkirk originally was expected to be out two to four weeks, and while he said he doesn’t want to rush anything, he added that he is anxious to start playing again.
“Eventually you’re just going to have to jump into the fire,” he said. “We have a lot of games coming up here in a row. It’s important not to jump in too early, but I feel like it’s not far away.”
Rangers coach David Quinn said he’d be “shocked” if Shattenkirk didn’t return to the ice during the team’s upcoming two-game road swing.
“[His return] helps for sure because he’s a guy who plays on the power play, moves pucks,” Quinn said. “He helps us get it out of our end, so that’s certainly something we’re going to need going forward.”
Forwards Jesper Fast (upper body, five games missed) and Cody McLeod (broken hand, 14 games missed) also are expected to return for the Rangers in Nashville, according to Quinn.
Fourth-liner Lias Andersson, who started the season with Hartford, was assigned to the Wolf Pack in order to meet the 23-man roster limit.
The return of Shattenkirk, Fast and McLeod could offer a bit of a spark for the Rangers, who have gone 2-3-5 in December.
“They all play with a lot of tenacity and it’s very honest hockey,” Chris Kreider said. “You’re going to be injured and you’ve got to find that next-man mentality, but it’s definitely nice to get healthy and have everyone back in the lineup.”
Shattenkirk said he simply wants to help re-energize the team and continue bringing pressure late in games. He embraced the physicality during practice, but now he’s ready to get back on the ice, look for a few more hits and, he hopes, help earn a few more wins.
“I think our biggest issue is as soon as we grab a one- or two-goal lead, especially with some of the experiences we’ve had this season, we’re playing too safe,” Shattenkirk said. “Even doing the little things right can be a catalyst for the rest of the guys.”