Oscar Lindberg's NHL debut last season didn't last long.
The Swedish center, who was acquired by the Rangers from Phoenix for Ethen Werek in 2011, was summoned from Hartford last Feb. 24 to fill in for Rick Nash, who had neck spasms. Lindberg was solid, playing 8:18 with two shots on goal in a home win against the Flames.
Monday night, the 23-year-old scored a goal in his first game back at the Garden as the Rangers defeated the Devils, 6-3, in the preseason opener.
"I was sent right back afterward last time," Lindberg said. "But that one game gave me energy, confidence and I played well the rest of the season." Lindberg finished 28-28-56, tied for eighth in the AHL in goals and tied for third in assists during the playoffs with 13.
"In the second half last year, he was a dominant two-way centerman that played with bite," Alain Vigneault said Sunday. "You can see he's got a real good skill set, a real good skater . . . He'll get a good look and probably get a look at more than one position."
Lindberg, who fired a shot from above the right circle that deflected off a Devils' leg and in with 5:17 left, hopes to follow the footsteps of another young Swede, Jesper Fast, who impressed Vigneault last season with his work ethic and two-way skills.
"We played together maybe 20 games in Hartford," Lindberg said of Fast, who was sidelined for the Feb. 25 game but has been paired with him during training camp. Asked if there was any chemistry, he said with a grin, "Yes, but we have to speak English on the ice."
Monday night, Lindberg was between Fast and Ryan Bourque. He played about 15 minutes and won 6 of 8 faceoffs. Midway through the second, he fed Fast in the slot for a shot that Devils goalie Corey Schneider barely squeezed with his right arm.
The Rangers want to keep Lindberg, who received a two-year contract worth $1.2 million this summer, and could play the wing. He'd have to clear waivers to be sent down.
The 6-1, 195-pound Lindberg faces competition for the open forward slots. Center Jarret Stoll and winger Viktor Stalberg were signed during the offseason and the team traded Carl Hagelin to Anaheim for Emerson Etem. He didn't hurt his chances Monday night.