Rangers Roundup: Will Cuylle consistent, and Kaapo Kakko closer to contact

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers hit the ice to practice this morning, in preparation for their tilt against the Vancouver Canucks at the Garden on Monday.

Per multiple reports, the lineup will be the same with Igor Shesterkin set to start against Thatcher Demko. In his last 7 appearances, Shesterkin is 6-1-0 with a 2.12 GAA, and a stellar .924 save percentage

One of the big takeaways from head coach Peter Laviolette’s pregame presser was an update on the status of Kaapo Kakko, who was still in a red non-contact jersey.

“There was no real restrictions on him today,” the coach revealed. “So, with regard to changing jersey colors, it’s close.”

Related: New York Rangers lineup options when Kakko returns

Rangers Roundup: Kaapo Kakko nearing a return

NHL: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kakko, 22, last played for the Rangers on November 27th. In a loss to the Buffalo Sabres, he fell awkwardly in the corner and was subsequently put on LTIR. To date, the former second overall pick in the 2019 Draft has been out 18 games and counting. New York is 11-6-1 during his absence.

The biggest question upon his return is what line will he play on? There’s a possibility that he could eventually work his way back up to the top unit with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. However, the most likely scenario would be to start on the newly formed third line with Will Cuylle, and Barclay Goodrow.

That likely indicates a return to the Hartford Wolf Pack for Brennan Othmann, as Jimmy Vesey would take his spot on the fourth line. Kakko has three points on the season (2 goals, 1 assist).

Will Cuylle has been one of the Rangers best forwards

During the Rangers last game, 21 year-old forward Will Cuylle was a one-man wrecking crew. in 12:27 of ice time against the Montreal Canadiens, he registered 3 hits, 2 shots, and an assist on the game-tying goal by Adam Fox in the third period.

“We go through a lot of stuff after a game to try and get better in some areas,” Laviolette noted. “His name or his videos hardly ever come up for things that need to be corrected or adjusted.”

Cuylle has done a great job as a rookie, and Laviolette’s remarks are serious high praise. When you consider how ice time depends on if you can be trusted defensively, the fact that his name rarely comes up in video sessions to fix coverage issues is a big deal.

“With regard to his game in Montreal, I thought he was fast and physical, as he always is. But his speed and ability to create was noticeable as well. He was a big part of that game-tying goal. Just his presence in front of the net. He goes to those hard areas.”

The first-year pro has recorded 7 goals and 11 points in 38 games to date. At some point in the near future, Cuylle could find himself filling in on the left or right side of the top two lines.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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