BRENTWOOD, Mo. — When the Rangers take on the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, Kevin Shattenkirk will be back in the lineup — and back in the city where he’s had the best moments of his NHL career.
“It’s been a couple years removed since I’ve been here, but I’m looking forward to playing [Monday] night,’’ Shattenkirk said Sunday after the Rangers practiced in a local public rink. “I still have some good buddies on the team, but this is a place that I called home for a long time and a place that I really enjoyed living. It’s going to be a bit emotional, but fun to be coming back into the lineup in a place that I’m familiar with.”
Shattenkirk, 29, played parts of seven seasons with the Blues and established himself as a top offensive defenseman before being traded to Washington at the deadline in 2017, then signed a four-year, $26.6-million contract with the Rangers as a free agent that summer. A knee injury ruined his first season with the team last season, and he’s been relatively inconspicuous (one goal, seven assists in 29 games) for most of this season.
Rangers coach David Quinn said Shattenkirk was playing well when he suffered a separated left shoulder Dec. 10 in Tampa, and the team has missed him while he has been out.
“He gives us the ability to get the puck out of our end, which is a huge quality at this level, the way teams forecheck,’’ Quinn said of Shattenkirk, who missed a total of seven games. “When he’s on his game, we get out of our end quicker. And the thing I liked, before he got hurt, I thought he was defending well, too.’’
Shattenkirk returned to practice with the team at its morning skate Thursday, before the Rangers’ first post-Christmas break game against Columbus, and practiced Friday. He sat out Saturday’s 4-3 win in Nashville but is fine now, he said.
“I feel good,’’ Shattenkirk said. “I’m just hungry to get back and play. I feel like I’ve just been missing it, being away from the team. Last night got me really excited, seeing them pull off a big win like that. So I just want to get in and hopefully keep that momentum going.’’
Notes & quotes: Quinn would not say who will be left out when Shattenkirk re-enters the lineup. Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal against the Blues, he said . . . Forward Filip Chytil rotated in on the fourth line at practice and could be scratched for the first time in his career. “He’s had a great year and done a lot of good things,’’ Quinn said of the 19-year-old. “[It’s] just, the last two games, there’s been a dip in play, and we’ll certainly talk with him and make a decision tomorrow.”