Rangers may be in contention for the top seed in the Metropolitan Division, but their true goal is to stay healthy with postseason on the horizon.
Kaapo Kakko is a testament to how difficult it could be to achieve that goal. The Finland winger suffered a lower body injury on Saturday afternoon after awkwardly bending his right knee in a fall along the boards early in the first half of Rangers’ 4-0 win over Red Wings at the Garden.
He missed much of the game, just his fourth time since being sidelined over 10 weeks with a suspected wrist injury, a much longer than expected recovery period. The acquisition of trade-deadline Tyler Motte has already been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season, so any additional injury to the forward group would be bad for Rangers.
The injury is particularly unfortunate for Kakko, who has missed 31 straight games and needs those final games of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. It’s possible the injury isn’t serious and Rangers medical staff kept Kakko away for the rest of the game as a precaution.
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However, if Kakko has to sit out for an extended period, Rangers won’t be as deep as they looked right after the March 21 trading deadline.
Alexis Lafreniere, who started the day with Kevin Rooney and Dryden Hunt on the fourth row, moved to the third unit with Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil after Kakko left the game. The adjustment paid off. Lafreniere scored twice in the third half to break an eight-game point drought and record the first multi-goal game of his career.
After scoring his first in a partial rush, Lafreniere refined a movement between the legs that made the Garden crowd ballistic when he finished with his backhand later in the third.
The win temporarily tied the Rangers with the Hurricanes for first place in the division, but Carolina had a chance to regain sole possession against the Avalanche on Saturday night.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin made his fifth shutout of the season with 20 saves.
Rangers posted some respectable time in the offensive zone in the opening 20 minutes to take a 1-0 lead. After a couple of good chances early on by Lafreniere and a counterattack by Zibanejad, triggered by a perfectly executed pass from Jacob Trouba, the Red Wings got their first shot on goal at 6:13.
Detroit was called upon to delay game penalties back-to-back, giving the Rangers a five-to-three advantage. Panarin then played Zibanejad for a one-timer from the top of the left circle to put the Rangers on the board.
The assist was Panarin’s 90th point of the season. He now has two 90-point campaigns on his résumé and is also the sixth Ranger to achieve that feat multiple times with the organization.
Rangers doubled the score on Frank Vatrano’s 100th career NHL goal in the second half when taking the trade deadline blew one out of the slot.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/16/rangers-rout-of-red-wings-comes-with-kaapo-kakko-injury-concern/ Rangers’ loss to Red Wings has linked Kaapo Kakko injury worries