Rangers' Sammy Blais back in the lineup after being scratched
TAMPA, Fla. — Alexis Lafrenière was a healthy scratch on Thursday night against the Lightning, and that was the big news. Less notable was that his spot in the lineup was taken by another French-Canadian forward, Sammy Blais, who was back in uniform.
“I got scratched the last two games, so I’ve just got to get back to playing good hockey, and every time you’re in the lineup, it’s an opportunity to prove what you can do,’’ Blais said after the Rangers’ morning skate at Amalie Arena.
Blais, a physical 6-2, 206-pound left wing, said he “deserved to be scratched’’ after taking a roughing penalty late in the second period of a 1-1 game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20. The Rangers surrendered a goal on the ensuing power play and Blais did not play in the third period. The Rangers went on to lose, 3-2, ending their winning streak at seven games.
“I kind of knew, after my penalty in Pittsburgh, I kind of cost us a game,’’ said Blais, who is still looking for his first goal as a Ranger. “So yeah, I deserved to be scratched, I think. And I’m just happy to be back in the lineup now.’’
Harpur stays in lineup
Ben Harpur played in his seventh straight game and seems to be coach Gerard Gallant’s preference as the sixth defenseman.
“I wanted Libor [Hajek] to take that spot, I wanted Jonesy [Zac Jones] to take that spot, and they would come in and they played some good games, and then they fell off again,’’ Gallant said. “I wish those guys would have played better consistently. And they would have had it. Harpur came in and played a [solid] game . . . I mean, it’s only a small amount, it’s five or six games, but he’s done a job, and we’re happy.’’
Igor gets the start
Igor Shesterkin, who will turn 27 on Friday, got the start in net against the Lightning. He took a 9-1-1 road record into the game and was 4-0-0 in the regular season against the Lightning.