Sammy Blais agreed with the notion that it was good for him and his game to accept the two-week conditioning assignment to AHL Hartford during the Rangers’ hiatus from game action during the NHL’s All-Star break.
The four goals he scored in five games indicate just how beneficial it truly was.
“I think it was big for me to go down there during the break, just keep playing and playing like 20 minutes a night down there,” Blais said after the Rangers’ practice Sunday afternoon in Tarrytown. “It was big and I have for sure more confidence now just by having the puck more and I think more ice time. Hopefully I can bring that up here.”
When Blais scored against the Bridgeport Islanders on Jan. 25, it was his first professional goal since May 19, 2021 during a first-round playoff series against the Avalanche when he was with the Blues. The two goal-effort he pieced together in the final game of his conditioning stint on Friday was the first multi-goal performance of his professional hockey career.
There was no question Blais needed to log some significant playing time after serving as a healthy scratch in the Rangers’ last four games before the eight-day layoff.
“Doesn’t matter what league you’re playing in, the American Hockey League is a very good hockey league as we know,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “He went down there and got some confidence and he felt real good about his game. Now, he’s going to come back up and hopefully things will go real well for him here. That’s the whole thing about players, sometimes, it’s not going great.
“He went down there, good character, good work ethic, coaches loved him down there and the players loved him. Did his job and now he wants to come up here and do it with our team.”
Blais said he hopes to play with as much fun as he had down with the Wolf Pack, in addition to taking a more confident approach. He skated as an extra with the fourth line during practice on Sunday, which means Blais will likely be scratched again Monday night against the Flames.
There’s no telling when Blais will draw back into the lineup, but it appears as though he’ll get another crack at locking down a spot among the top-12 forwards.
“Had some good games down there,” Blais said. “Played a lot of minutes and got a lot of puck touches. It was good for my confidence and just to get back into it a little more. I was happy to be down there and just happy to be back here.”