By Sean Hartnett
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After spending a 17-game stint in the minors, Tanner Glass is happy to have a second life with the Rangers.READ MORE: Nearly 200 Students Quarantined In Middlesex County After Possible COVID Exposure At Homecoming Dance
“For me, tonight, it was a lot of fun to be back here with this group and in this league,” Glass said after the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn, his first NHL game since Oct. 13. “I said to my dad this morning, it’s another chance to play in the NHL. It’s something I’m going to relish and enjoy while I can.”
The 32-year-old forward made an effective return to the Rangers’ lineup Wednesday. Often the poster boy for analytics-fueled debates, Glass demonstrated a newfound focus on maintaining possession and creative play. The experience of being thrust into a minute-heavy role at AHL Hartford included power play time and allowed him to tap into a side of his game that may have gone dormant after primarily finding success as a rugged, body-crunching winger.
“It gave me the chance to focus on hanging onto the puck a little bit more and making some plays,” Glass said of his minor league sabbatical. “It’s a definitely a different game to be playing 18-to-20 minutes and playing some different roles, so that was fun.”
The Rangers’ third line of Glass, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller provided high energy and threatened Isles netminder Jaroslav Halak throughout Wednesday’s game. On their initial shift in the first period, the trio pinned the Isles deep and generated a slew of scoring chances.
“I think we’re just trying to hound the puck and play with some speed,” Glass said. “A couple of our forechecks early resulted in turnovers. We were just able to get around the puck and get pucks to the net.”
Glass finished the night with a 5-on-5 Corsi differential of plus-7, tied with Miller for second on the Blueshirts, trailing Lindberg’s plus-8. Glass recorded three shots on goal and five hits in 10:01 of ice time.READ MORE: At Least 1 Dead In Long Island Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak
“He was the perfect fit for this game,” alternate captain Dan Girardi told WFAN.com. “It was going to be a hard-nosed game, a lot of finished checks. (Glass) did a great job for us. He had a couple chances in the first, a couple good looks there. We were really happy to see him here in the room before the game. I think it gave us a little boost, for sure.”
Ultimately, Glass’ role on the Rangers is to serve as a disruptor, a protector and as head coach Alain Vigneault likes to call him “a deterrent to opposition physicality.” But his return performance was a blending of skill and brute force. Nowadays, the role of the enforcer is shrinking and the NHL’s best teams roll four possession-positive lines.
Perhaps, all Glass needed was a slight adjustment to his game. Maybe he can evolve into an agitating-yet-effective bottom-six winger similar to what Derek Dorsett was on the 2013-14 Eastern Conference champion Rangers. At the moment, he said he’s not getting ahead of himself.
“I’ll just take it day-by-day,” Glass said. “A lot of stuff is out of my hands. I’m just worrying about myself and my game, the way I prepare, and the intensity and effort I bring to the rink every day.”
Glass had an adventurous commute to Barclays Center. An illness forced winger Emerson Etem out of the lineup and the injury-hit Rangers needed to call up a healthy forward with Etem unavailable and star center Derek Stepan out at least four weeks due to broken ribs. When Glass arrived at the Hartford practice rink from NYC, where he had been from Monday through Wednesday morning following an off day, Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander informed him that the Rangers had recalled him. It was time to go back in the other direction. In total, he spent more than five hours in his car due to traffic.
“At first I was like, are you kidding me? But obviously, it’s a good thing,” Glass said of the circuitous commute. “I hopped back in the car.”
It’s unclear how long Glass will remain with the Rangers. The Blueshirts could opt to keep 13 forwards through next Saturday’s road game in Calgary. It’s up to the veteran forward to make the most of his second chance. Wednesday’s performance against the Isles was a good start.MORE NEWS: Kyla-Simone Sobers-Batties Released From Hospital 2 Weeks After Being Shot In Head By Stray Bullet At Brooklyn Park
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey