GREENBURGH, N.Y. — As the Rangers try to reduce their turnovers and scoring chances by opponents — which usually are linked — they will be without one of their best defensive forwards for two to three weeks.
Right wing Jesper Fast suffered a quadriceps strain during Thursday night’s game against the Devils. Fast, a top-four penalty-killer, is averaging 1:50 on ice in shorthanded situations and is a plus-8 overall. He has six goals and 10 assists in 30 games. The Rangers rank sixth in the NHL on the penalty kill.
Coach Alain Vig neault said Friday that the Rangers, who have 12 healthy forwards, will not use an emergency call-up for Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boo Nieves, a healthy scratch for two games, will center a shuffled fourth line with J.T. Miller and Paul Carey.
After the three-day holiday break, the Rangers likely will summon a spare forward from the Hartford Wolf Pack, depending on Fast’s status. After the Maple Leafs matchup, they have four games, including the Winter Classic at Citi Field on Jan. 1, before leaving for a two-game road trip to Arizona and Las Vegas on Jan. 4.
Like the Rangers, the Maple Leafs (21-14-1, 43 points) are scoring 3.3 goals per game. Henrik Lundqvist, who will start his 31st game on Saturday night, and Ondrej Pavelec have faced at least 40 shots in five of the last nine games, including 48 against Lund qvist on Thursday night in New Jersey.
“We’ve been defending a lot more in our own end than previous,” Marc Staal said. “Sometimes when you’re trying to defend the middle of the ice really hard, you give up point shots, goal-line wraps, rebounds. We can do a better job.’’
Sometimes the opponent is a reason for the high number of shots.
Don’t forget that the Maple Leafs built a 5-1 lead on Lundqvist in the first period en route to a 41-shot, 8-5 win in Toronto in the second game of the season.
“Teams like Dallas and Los Angeles, who shoot pucks from all different angles, and the Senators are the same way, we played a lot of those teams lately,” Brendan Smith said. “If we want to limit those shots and drop that number because it’s tiresome on our goalies, we have to manage the puck better.”
Brady Skjei said the important thing to do Saturday is to respond right away.
“We’ve had a good stretch here, the last 20 games. We’ve battled back from our start and put ourselves back in the playoff hunt,” he said. “We’re thinking about the [holiday] break, but we’d all feel a lot better if we get two points.”