Kaapo Kakko finally a full participant at Rangers practice

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
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The reinforcements are arriving for the New York Rangers, as forward Kaapo Kakko was a full participant in practice Wednesday as a return to the lineup feels closer at hand.

While things are progressing, a return on Thursday in St. Louis seems unlikely. Kakko skated at center between Chris Kreider and Will Cuylle, as Mika Zibanejad missed practice due to an illness.

Kakko has missed 19 games after suffering a leg injury Nov. 27 against the Sabres.

In other injury news, Tyler Pitlick has resumed skating on his own. He’s listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Center Filip Chytil is skating in Czechia with no timetable to return from a suspected concussion.

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Kaapo Kakko practices in full

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
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Head coach Peter Laviolette stated Kakko was still day-to-day, but added he “looked really good to me again” following Wednesday’s practice.

The Rangers have remained one of the top teams in the NHL despite Kakko’s absence. But cracks are beginning to show, as New York has gone 8-7-1 in its last 16 games, including lopsided losses in two of its last four games, most recently a 6-3 defeat Monday against Vancouver.

Kakko hasn’t set the world on fire in terms of offensive production with just two goals and an assist in 20 games. But his underlying numbers, especially during his stint with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, are strong and he’s one of the Rangers’ better defensive forwards.

With Kakko not quite ready to return to the lineup, New York recalled Jake Leschyshyn from AHL Hartford on Tuesday. He skated on a line with Nick Bonino and Jonny Brodzinski Wednesday. Laviolette confirm Leschyshyn would play against the Blues.

“It’s exciting every time you get a chance to play in the NHL,” Leschyshyn said. “I’ll just try to take it shift by shift here and bring energy.”

The Vincent Trocheck line remained unchanged, while Barclay Goodrow centered Jimmy Vesey and Blake Wheeler.

If Kakko doesn’t play Thursday, it seems likely he’ll return either Saturday in Washington or Sunday at The Garden, also against the Capitals.

Matt Calamia spent six seasons as a digital content producer and writer for the New York Rangers. Prior to... More about Matt Calamia