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Puempel Returns to Practice; Fast Out 7-10 Days

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Matt Puempel returned to practice on Wednesday and said he's feeling well after undergoing concussion protocol over the last several weeks.

"Feeling great everyday," Puempel told NYRangers.com after practice. "Been getting in some hard skates when the guys have games, so conditioning has been feeling good. Just keep on with the protocol. Been feeling really well and I'll be back sooner than later."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said while it was a positive to see the forward back at practice, he'll need a few more before he returns to the lineup.

"He's been cleared for contact, so now it's just a matter of getting him a couple practices here and seeing how he reacts to having people around him and hopefully it goes well," Vigneault said.

Puempel, who has missed the last six games, said it's now a matter of getting his basics back to being game ready.

"Timing, passing, shooting," Puempel said when asked what he needed to work on. "When you're skating by yourself or with a few guys, you don't really get that flow. You actually feel a little better out here [in a normal practice] than you do when you're by yourself because it's not as hard conditioning wise. So it felt really good today."

While Puempel's return was a positive, the Rangers were dealt a blow in the form of an upper body injury to Jesper Fast that is expected to sideline the right winger for seven to 10 days. Vigneault said he did not expect Fast back until after the All Star break, which begins a week from tomorrow.

Vigneault said Oscar Lindberg would play tomorrow in Toronto in place of Fast after Lindberg was a healthy scratch for Tuesday's matchup with the Dallas Stars.

Defenseman Marc Staal skated on his own Wednesday and will do so Thursday as he continues to undergo concussion protocol.

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