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Mika Zibanejad ‘rusty,’ tentative in return to lineup

Back on the No. 1 line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, the center with 22 points in 24 games played 13:32, including 2:18 on the first power-play unit.

The Rangers' Mika Zibanejad looks on against the

The Rangers' Mika Zibanejad looks on against the Ducks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

In his return after missing nine games after a concussion, Mika Zibanejad was admittedly “a little rusty” and tentative, all of which was natural.

Back on the No. 1 line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, the center with 22 points in 24 games played 13:32, including 2:18 on the first power-play unit, and was credited with one shot, in the third period. And Zibanejad, who played after just one full practice, won just four of nine faceoffs.

“I think it was a decent game for the first game back,” he said. “When you are out this long, you have a little bit more jump . . . you’re obviously a little more tired after the first. The skating was there. The positioning, the decision-making and the plays came along throughout the game. The plays and the timing, that’s what you kind of get back into slowly. Nerves were there for the first shift, and after that it was just normal.”

Review goes well

Why was coach Alain Vigneault grinning late in the third period? Linesman Ryan Daisy told the Rangers bench “Watch this one” just before referee Wes McCauley’s announcement after a video review showed that the puck was completely over the line before Rickard Rakell knocked Michael Grabner’s shot out of the air with his stick at 16:37 of the third.

Blue notes

The Rangers are now 14-5-3 at home and have a plus-15 goal differential overall this season, the best in the Metropolitan Division . . . “We’ve been finding ways to win here,” Marc Staal said. “We’ve got to keep that going.” . . . Nick Holden had two assists, his fourth and fifth of the season . . . Defenseman Steven Kampfer was a healthy scratch for the ninth straight game . . . The NHL’s annual Holiday Roster Freeze began at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Players cannot be traded, waived or loaned to the minors until 12:01 a.m. Dec. 28.

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