Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his...

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his second period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The heavy part of the December schedule is over now, and all things considered, the Rangers came out of it in good shape — 6-3-1 in 10 games over the first 17 days of the month. Now, they have one game scheduled over a nine-day period, including the Christmas Break this coming weekend.

"I think we did a good job,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said of the Rangers’ performance in December. "Obviously, some games we haven't played our best, but at the end of the day, if you get two points, it's good, and you move on to the next game. And if you don't, you still move on.’’

After their 3-2 shootout loss Friday to the Vegas Golden Knights at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers enjoyed an off-day Saturday, sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 19-7-4 record and 42 points.

They don’t play again until they host Montreal Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (assuming the rise of COVID cases around the league doesn’t cause that game to be postponed).

The Rangers announced that No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin has come off injured reserve following two-and-a-half weeks of being sidelined with a lower-body injury. They may also have leading scorer Artemi Panarin back after he missed Friday’s game with a lower-body injury.

And, judging by their performance in the last two games, it may be that the first line, with Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko, is starting to find its stride.

Kakko has been a force, holding the puck and cycling in the offensive zone then dishing it off to a teammate to generate offensive zone possession time and scoring chances.

Zibanejad, whose numbers have been down, especially in five-on-five play, has scored in two straight games and looks ready to start one of his goal binges. He and Kreider scored the Rangers’ goals Friday, and Kakko had two — and Zibanejad the other — in Wednesday’s 3-2 win in Arizona.

"I think we've taken steps these last few games to understanding what we expect from one another,’’ Kreider said after Friday’s game. "It's a really fast game. You're not necessarily going to be able to make a ‘heads up’ play every time, so I think we're getting a lot better at putting pucks into areas, especially on the cycle, where we can relieve pressure… There's more of a flow to our forecheck and to our puck possession.’’

"We talk a little bit more on the bench as well, and [are] starting to understand each other and understand when the guy needs the support and when he doesn't,’’ Zibanejad said. "Sometimes it takes some time to get to know a player and build some chemistry. And I think that's what we're doing right now.’’

Notes & quotes: With Shesterkin off injured reserve, the Rangers sent goalie Keith Kinkaid back to Hartford . . . Defenseman Patrik Nemeth was placed in COVID-19 protocol, so it's likely that defenseman Nils Lundkvist, who might have been sent back to Hartford, will stay up . . . The NHL’s Christmas break roster freeze goes into effect Monday, when players won’t be able to be traded or sent down to the minor leagues for a week, until the break is over Dec. 27.

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