As a potential playoff clinch looms, the Rangers will get back a pair of reinforcements for their Saturday contest against Ottawa.
The New York Rangers’ playoff push will get back two new, yet familiar, faces as the team prepares to do battle with the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, MSG/NHL Network). Per Mollie Walker of the New York Post, head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed that Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney will return to the lineup from upper-body injuries as the Rangers close in on an Eastern Conference playoff spot, one they’ll clinch with one more win.
The good news comes after the Rangers (46-20-6) learned that they’ll be without trade deadline acquisition Tyler Motte for the foreseeable future, as the former Vancouver Canuck was deemed to have a “significant” injury after a physical encounter with Anthony Angello during Thursday’s 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to Motte, Filip Chytil also sustained an upper-body injury and will not play on Saturday but is only expected to be day-to-day.
#NYR Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney will play tonight vs. the Senators, per coach Gerard Gallant.
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) April 9, 2022
According to a further report from the Post, this one from Zach Braziller, Kakko could make his return on the third line, which is where he was skating when the Rangers convened for a workout on Friday. The second overall pick of the 2019 draft missed 31 games, last appearing on Jan. 21’s 6-3 loss in Carolina. Kakko had dressed for the following night’s game against Arizona but was a late scratch, leading to his extended departure. He has earned 14 points this season through five goals and nine assists.
Rooney will likely be situated on the fourth line, where he could center with Dryden Hunt and Ryan Reaves. The former New Jersey Devil last appeared in March 2’s win over St. Louis and has tallied six goals and five assists this season.
The Rangers are seeking to capture their first playoff berth under the traditional 16-team format since 2017. A win on Saturday would also place the Blueshirts in a tie for the Metropolitan Division lead, though the current leaders from Carolina would have a game in hand. New York will face the Hurricanes in its next contest on Tuesday night at MSG (7 p.m. ET, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags