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Rangers send Brady Skjei, Magnus Hellberg back to AHL

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The Rangers send Brady Skjei back to the AHL.Al Bello/Getty Images

The Rangers send Brady Skjei back to the AHL.

After he logged a solid 17:38 of ice time in Tuesday’s win in Buffalo, including 1:35 on the penalty kill, the Rangers sent rookie left-handed defenseman Brady Skjei back to AHL Hartford on Wednesday along with goaltender Magnus Hellberg.

The 21-year-old played well on the third defense pair with Dan Boyle in his fourth career NHL match, but what Skjei wants to do is prove he’s worth keeping on the NHL roster long-term after being called up and sent down thrice this season.

“It’s tough,” Skjei said of the maneuvering after Tuesday’s win. “I mean, it keeps you motivated and going. When you get sent down you wanna work really hard to get back up here. It obviously sucks the first hour or so, but you’ve just got to work hard and try to get back up here.”

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Unfortunately for Skjei, the Rangers have very little cap space and need to preserve cash any chance they can. Skjei, who along with Hellberg was called up on an emergency basis because of injuries, carries a $ 925,000 cap hit.

Skjei mostly shined in his NHL debut on Dec. 15 in a win over the Oilers at the Garden, a second-period turnover which led to Edmonton’s tying goal the only blemish on his evening. He was far less effective two days later in his home state of Minnesota where the Rangers lost 5-2 to the Wild.

He was sent back down and ultimately recalled on Feb. 23 to play against the Devils in Newark for an injured Marc Staal, who missed the last two games with back spasms. Skjei logged a team-high 22:17 of ice time that game with both Staal and Ryan McDonagh out, and was sent back to Hartford the next day before being recalled on Monday.

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“No, I mean, I can’t control that,” Skjei replied when asked if it was tough knowing the team’s salary-cap situation is affecting him. “I control how I play. Anything out of my hands, it’s not worth stressing about or worrying about I don’t think.”

With Dylan McIlrath (knee) out for a couple of weeks, there’s a chance Skjei – or veteran Raphael Diaz – could be recalled ahead of next week’s three-game California trip so the Rangers have a seventh defenseman as insurance.

The Rangers, who were off Wednesday, changed Thursday’s practice to optional, which isn’t a surprise given the injuries to Staal and McIlrath. Jesper Fast, who recently suffered a broken nose and a bad flu, was seen limping after Tuesday’s game, in which he scored the third goal. Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms) is on track to return this weekend. Rick Nash’s return from a left-leg bone bruise could come this weekend or shortly afterward.

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