BOSTON – Kaapo Kakko didn’t score a shorthanded time last season, but the 20-year-old looks to be seeing a few shorthanded minutes this year.
End of 20 saw 1:38 of shorthanded ice time in the Rangers 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins on Saturday night at TD Garden. Boston went 1-for-4 on the power play, with David Pastrnak scoring the Bruins’ power play in the first period, taking advantage of Libor Hajek’s interference penalty. Kakko, who at one point managed a shorthanded scoring chance that was saved, was off the ice for Pastrnak’s goal and finished with a plus-two differential on the evening.
“Honestly, I was very impressed with him last year, how well defensive he was,” penalty striker Kevin Rooney said of Kakko on Saturday night. “He’s got such a good stick, he’s very smart, so he can certainly be a huge asset to us on the penalty kill, if that’s where they’re going to put him. If we’re together, that would be great.
“He’s a hell of a hockey player and he’s really grown over the past two years since joining the league.
Rangers’ penalty units continued to take shape as the preseason progressed. The first PK unit on the ice on Saturday were Kakko, Morgan Barron, Ryan Lindgren and Nils Lundkvist. While Barron is no lock in making the squad and Lundkvist is still acclimating to the North American game, Lindgren will likely carry a heavy penalty load. It is safe to assume that Jacob Trouba and Patrick Nemeth will also be used often on the PK.
In the middle of Pavel Buchnevich and Brett Howden’s departure, the Rangers lost two of their top four killers. Chief Executive Chris Drury has enlisted Barclay Goodrow to fill part of the void. Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Rooney, as well as Ryan Strome, will likely also see penalty time.
Head coach Gerard Gallant has said Adam Fox will compete at PK “in certain situations”, stressing that he does not want to overwork Rangers No.1 defenseman. Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov and Sammy Blais also got a few penalty minutes during the pre-season.
“Good instincts,” Gallant said earlier in training camp about what he’s looking for in a penalty killer. “For me, most of the more talented qualifiers can kill penalties. Few of them go out there and do that, but a lot of these guys, they have good sticks, they have good hand-eye coordination, and they read plays really well. It’s the same thing offensively, you just have to pay the price a little more defensively.
The Rangers reduced their roster at training camp to 27 on Sunday. Will Cuylle was assigned to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, while Matthew Robertson, Braden Schneider, Lauri Pajuniemi, Tyler Wall and Adam Huska were sent to the AHL Hartford.
Mason Geertsen was placed on waivers for the purpose of posting him to AHL Hartford, but the Devils claimed the 6-foot-4 heavyweight.
The Rangers’ next preseason game is Wednesday against the Devils at Madison Square Garden.