Libor Hajek finally gets shot to crack Rangers’ lineup again

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Defenseman Libor Hajek skated in his first NHL sport in 5 months Friday evening within the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Jets at Canada Life Centre. Hajek drew into the lineup rather than the 21-year-old Zac Jones at the 3rd defensive pairing, subsequent to Braden Schneider.

In 13:45 of ice time, Hajek used to be credited with two photographs, one blocked shot and 3 giveaways.

After serving in a natural intensity position that used to be restricted even additional via the Rangers’ excellent fortune with accidents, Hajek has come into the 2022-23 season having a look to land a role at the backside pair. It seemed Jones had gained the spot out of coaching camp with some cast preseason performances.

It can be unfair, then again, for the Rangers to ask Hajek to put his NHL occupation on grasp for any other season. As a outcome, Rangers head trainer Gerard Gallant is giving the 24-year-old Czech a possibility to show off himself. Plus, after Jones and Braden Schneider had a tricky time Thursday evening at Minnesota in a matchup with the Wild’s most sensible line, dealing with the Jets appeared like a great time to give Hajek a glance.

Libor Hajek battles Adam Lowry for the puck during the Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Jets.
Libor Hajek battles Adam Lowry for the puck all the way through the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Jets.

“It had to be real tough on him,” Gallant mentioned early in coaching camp of Hajek’s position remaining season. “A guy comes in all the time and is saying, ‘Am I going to get a chance? Am I going to get an opportunity?’ We like the kid, there was nothing wrong with the kid, there was nothing wrong with the kid’s game. It’s just everything was going pretty for us last year, so he didn’t get much of an opportunity.”

The undeniable fact that Jones used to be scratched Friday does now not essentially imply he has misplaced the activity to Hajek. It used to be now not the primary time Gallant has opted to scratch a tender defenseman in a single sport of a back-to-back time table.

Last season, Nils Lundkvist used to be scratched within the first sport of the season at Washington earlier than drawing into the lineup the very subsequent evening in opposition to Dallas. Gallant did the similar factor the next month, taking part in Lundkvist within the Nov. 5 matchup at Edmonton and sitting him the following sport at Calgary. Lundkvist, who used to be traded to Dallas overdue remaining month, turned around with Jarred Tinordi, whom the Rangers just lately waived earlier than he used to be picked up via Chicago.

Wing Sammy Blais, who suffered an upper-body harm within the preseason finale in opposition to the Islanders and neglected the primary two video games of the season, used to be a chance to play Friday, however in the long run used to be scratched out of an abundance of warning, in accordance to Gallant.

“He’s real close,” Gallant mentioned. “He skated again today and he’s feeling good. Being cautious, I’m being cautious.”

The AHL Hartford Wolf Pack introduced Jonny Brodzinski as captain and Turner Elson and Tanner Fritz because the alternates for the 2022-23 season.

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