ST. LOUIS — Sammy Blais accompanied the Rangers on their current four-city road trip and has been spotted, during morning skates and practices, either watching from the bench or passing his teammates some pucks off to the side.
It’s the first trip on which Blais has joined the Rangers since he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in November, after the 25-year-old winger was slew-footed by Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.
“I have no idea why he came on the trip besides being back in St. Louis,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said, referring to the fact that Blais spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with the Blues. “It’s nice, rehab is going well. It’s probably a good break for him. He probably asked to come on the trip and I’m sure Chris [Drury] and the staff said, ‘Yeah, come on the trip and be around the guys.’
“It’s pretty lonely when you’re hurt for a long time like that and you’re not around your teammates, for sure. He’s getting good medical attention here and he’s getting his rehab here so I think it’s great.”
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Blais, who was packaged with the Blues’ 2022 second-round pick as the Rangers’ return for Pavel Buchnevich this past offseason, is very unlikely to be healthy in time for the playoffs. He had to wait until the swelling in his knee went down to have the surgery, which was a success back in mid-December.
Set to become a restricted free agent this summer, Blais caught a tough break having to miss a majority of the season. He strung together 14 promising games, collecting four assists, while flashing a soft set of hands that had more of an offensive upside than many originally thought.
The quality time with the Rangers on the road will certainly bode well for Blais as he enters future contract negotiations.
“It’s awesome,” Dryden Hunt said of having Blais around. “I was hurt there for four games and it’s tough just to be away. I couldn’t imagine four or five months. So to have him on the road is special. I think he has a lot of good memories in this place. He’s a great guy to have around, super positive.”
Rangers assistant general manager Ryan Martin was named GM of Team USA for the IIHF World Championship, which will be held in May. Mike Grier, who served as the Rangers’ hockey operations adviser, will assist in player personnel. Blues coach Craig Berube told reporters Wednesday that Buchnevich, who took a high hit during a 4-1 loss to the Senators on Tuesday, went into concussion protocol and is not doing well. There is a chance he won’t play against the Rangers on Thursday night.