Igor Shesterkin was on the ice for part of Rangers practice today. (Stephenson)
The Rangers swapped Blake Wheeler and Kaapo Kakko and so Wheeler skated today with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko was with Will Cuylle and Nick Bonino. (Brooks)
Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafreniere remained together and Barclay Goodrow skated between Jimmy Vesey and Tyler Pitlick. (Brooks)
Adam Rotter: As much as I think that Kaapo Kakko fits pretty well with Zibanejad and Kreider and that he’s strong on the puck, strong protecting it and winning battles, at some point you do need to score. The Rangers are struggling at 5-on-5 and so it’s not a shock to see Blake Wheeler get a run next to Zibanejad and Kreider. Wheeler has been better as of late and as a playmaker he may be able to spark Zibanejad and Kreider. Kakko’s two-way game has been strong and his effort has been strong, but he isn’t generating as much offense as needed or expected. It is a bit of a demotion and it would feel like less of one if Vincent Trocheck was still centering that line, but he’ll still get good minutes and maybe some more favorable matchups to try and break out a bit offensively.
It’s hard to break up Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere because the Lafreniere we are seeing is the best we’ve seen so far in his career and that line continues to be a threat, but I do wonder if Kaapo Kakko getting a shot with Panarin might get him going. Again, you don’t mess with what is working, and that line is working, but if you were confident that Lafreniere could still be this player with Zibanejad and Kreider than maybe it would worth a shot if Wheeler doesn’t get things going with that line.