Less than two weeks after the return of two injured reserve strikers, Rangers are back in the same position – but better equipped to deal with it.
Kaapo Kakko is considered week-in-week with a lower-body injury he suffered against the Red Wings on Saturday, in just his fourth game since a suspected wrist injury kept him out for nearly 2 ¹/₂ months. The game before Kakko’s return, Tyler Motte suffered what Rangers called a “significant” upper-body injury that will rule out the trade deadline acquisition for at least the rest of the regular season. and potentially the playoffs.
With the playoffs steadily approaching, not having a perfectly healthy roster is a hindrance. However, Rangers have been relatively lucky with injuries and the loss of players to COVID-19 this season.
“Really, we’ve been pretty lucky with injuries this year compared to some of the other teams,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after practice Monday. “You have a guy here and a guy there. Besides Sammy Blais [season-ending ACL tear], obviously, and Kaapo was out for quite a while, but for the most part we were lucky with injuries. We have a lot of guys around. The only difficult part about this one is that Kaapo was playing really well. He has just returned from an eight-week absence. He played four games there and in his last game [on Wednesday in Philadelphia]he scored two goals and played very well, so it’s definitely disappointing for him.
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“It’s not long term, we expect him to be back and hope he plays maybe two or three of the last games. We expect him for the playoffs.
Rangers may have lost two forwards again, but the trade deadline softens the blow. Kakko should also be ready for the first round of the playoffs in May. Although Motte may be unavailable, the other additions of Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp have effectively completed the Rangers lineup.
“That’s why you add to the deadline,” Copp said before facing his former team, the Jets, at the Garden on Tuesday. “Everyone has some sort of problem right now across the whole league. Everyone has guys who are injured. It really sucks to lose guys, but I feel like we’re very capable. We have 15, 16, 17 attackers who can step in at any time.
“We feel comfortable with the depth and we think the team has had this next-man mentality all year, just from an outside perspective from the start. I think we’re pretty tough mentally in this situation.
Copp, who had five goals and eight assists in 13 games for Rangers, was chairman and general manager Chris Drury’s most significant acquisition. He took what would have been Kakko’s place on the right wing in the second row alongside Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
The pending unrestricted free agent noted when he first arrived in New York that he thought last season was when he took a leap in his game and overall production, referring to the 15 goals and 24 assists he collected in 55 games with the Jets. in 2020-21.
Part of that stems from the confidence he’s gained from receiving more time on the power play and in the top six, where Copp has played in all but one game for the Rangers so far.
“Yes and no,” Copp said when asked if his transition had gone faster than expected. “Some of the hits have obviously been very good, especially in terms of production. But at the same time, I feel like my game can kind of play with anyone, in any situation, be successful and make the guys around me better. So I feel like that’s kind of been my calling card in my career and the way I play the game. I think that’s in kind of shown so far.In Winnipeg, I changed lines almost every game.
“Playing with new guys isn’t necessarily a new thing for me. I think that [comfort] in that role has led to some success here for sure.
New York Post