Less than 24 hours after being the "best player on the ice" in Hartford's 3-2 win over Norfolk, Swedish forward Jesper Fast was recalled from the minor leagues by the Rangers for his second tour of duty in the NHL this season. After scoring two goals and adding an assist Sunday up in Hartford, Fast was on the ice at the MSG Training Center skating on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin during Rangers practice Monday morning. He even was recalled in time to be in the official team photo that was taken before the start of practice.
"I am very happy, it feels really good to be here," said Fast after practice. "I have been playing 20 minutes a night (in Hartford), the coach has had a lot of confidence in me, so I feel I am ready help here."
The 22 year-old rookie began the season with the Rangers, appearing in eight of the team's first ten games before being sent back to Hartford when Hagelin was activated off Injured Reserve. Playing mainly a fourth-line role, Fast was held without a point and was a ,minus-five in his eight games, recording six shots on goal. Though his experience was somewhat limited, Fast believes that taste of the NHL has him more prepared this time around.
"I'm more ready mentally, I think," offered Fast. "One thing I learned is that up here everyone is a great player, so if you make one small mistake you will be in trouble."
Upon arriving in Hartford Fast almost immediately suffered a high ankle sprain, which knocked him out of Hartford's lineup for a while. However he has played extremely well with the Wolf Pack, especially as of late. At the time of his recall Fast had scored 17 goals, added 17 assists, and totaled 34 points in only 48 games.
In addition, Fast led the team with eight power play goals and was tied with a team-best +14 plus/minus rating.
"Quite simply both (assistant general managers Jeff Gorton and Jim Schoenfeld) were at the game last night and both said he was the best player on the ice," head coach Alain Vigneault said of Fast, the team's sixth round selection in the 2010 NHL Draft. "We thought we'd bring him up and take a look at him. I like his hockey sense, his speed, his sense, his willingness to play at both ends of the rink. Unfortunately when we sent him back he had that high ankle sprain which takes a while for you to find your rhythm again, but for the past month I've been told over and over again he's playing really, really well."
The Rangers have been trying to find the right line combinations since Chris Kreider's hand injury knocked him out of the lineup, and Fast will be the latest player to get an opportunity on one of the top three lines should he remain with Richards and Hagelin when the team skates against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night at The Garden.
Vigneault also put Marty St. Louis on the right side of Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, and reunited his fourth line of Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, and either Derek Dorsett or Daniel Carcillo.
"It's a great opportunity to play with players that have their skills," Fast said of Richards and Hagelin. "I will just try and play my game, change nothing, just fit in."
As for Kreider, Vigneault said he saw the rookie forward working out off ice Monday, but had no update on his surgically-repaired hand. In addition Vigneault said of injured defenseman Ryan McDonagh, "he's coming along" and remains out on a day to day basis.