Kaapo Kakko let out a deep sigh.
As he reflected on how he felt having to leave in the first period of the Rangers’ shutout win over the Red Wings on April 16, just over a week after finally getting back into the lineup after Having missed 31 straight games with another injury, Kakko couldn’t hide his frustration.
His initial reaction, which Kakko described before the Rangers took on the Canadiens in their penultimate game of the regular season at the Garden Wednesday night, was expected.
“I thought, ‘One more time, I have to watch the games,'” said Kakko, who will play for the first time since April 9 on Wednesday. “But only four games so I’m glad I’m back.”
However, Kakko only seems to care that he was able to recover in time for the playoffs. With the regular season coming to a close at the end of this week, it’s safe to say that Rangers feel the same way.
So Kakko will get two matchups to get back into game shape, settle into the roster and improve his individual game before Sunday’s calendar jumps into May and Rangers find out who their opponent will be in the first round . Kakko seemed grateful to have at least two games for it.
When asked if he was feeling well before the second injury, Kakko said yes.
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“Yes, I feel better,” he said. “The first couple of games weren’t that good. But I think the game against Philly, a few goals, that helps a lot. I think I played well and then only played a few minutes in the fourth game, but I feel like I played better.
Kakko moves back into the third row alongside Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil on Wednesday night. Despite picking up two separate injuries, the first he suspected was a wrist injury before unhappily falling on his right leg to pick up the second, the Finnish winger has no plans to play cautiously.
Instead, Kakko is striving to get into full swing ahead of the postseason and get a real feel for the game.
“It’s not that easy,” Kakko said of the past three months. “But it’s hockey. That [happens] sometimes. It’s not that easy, 30 games, you just watch. You can still work out in the gym and prepare for the games when you can play again, watch the games and learn at the same time. There are some good things too. I knew I could still play this year, so that was a good thing.”
Gerard Gallant has hinted that he plans to rest some regulars in the last two games but the head coach will also be cautious. Expect Kakko to remain in the lineup for Friday’s matchup against the Capitals unless there’s some kind of backlash or a communication from the 21-year-old that he’s not 100 percent ready.
“It’s important, but it’s not important,” Gallant said of giving Kakko two games. “The reason it matters to him is because he missed a lot of time, he just came back. He’s ready to go, he’s fine.
“He probably could have played [Tuesday against the Hurricanes]but we didn’t want to play him in a duel right away.”
https://nypost.com/2022/04/27/kappo-kakko-happy-to-get-rangers-tune-up-before-playoffs/ Kaapo Kakko happy with Rangers tuning ahead of the playoffs