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Rangers Kaapo Kakko is a surprise scratch for Game 2 against the Panthers

Rangers Kaapo Kakko is a surprise scratch for Game 2 against the Panthers

NHL

For the second time in three years, Kaapo Kakko was a healthy scratch in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Finnish winger had to watch the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime win over the Panthers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden from the press box.

It was the first time Kakko sat on the bench since former coach Gerard Gallant did so in Game 6 of the 2022 conference final at Tampa Bay.

Kaapo Kakko was a healthy scratch for Game 2 against the Panthers. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Conn

“I think you always look at your lineup and evaluate it,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of potential lineup changes Friday morning. “I don’t necessarily know if that’s the case [overreacting versus looking for a spark regarding lineup changes]. I was very honest, I think we can play better. I think we did good things. I think the scoring chances we created, even though there weren’t a lot of them, because that’s not what happens when you play Florida. I think we got six or seven really good looks.

“Within that, we need to make some of those looks pay off. … So, there are things that I think you can just look at the lineup itself and not necessarily whether there’s movement or not, but look at the lineup itself and get better with that game, with That plan, with that group.

“And if you make a step, you make a step. But I think we have to look at the bigger picture and look to get better on the ice.”

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As a result, Matt Rempe returned to the lineup for the first time since Game 5 of the second-round series against the Hurricanes.

The 6-foot-8 1/2 forward returns to his usual spot on the fourth line next to Barclay Goodreau and Jimmy Vesey.


Follow The Post’s coverage of the Rangers in the NHL playoffs


Laviolette chose to rearrange some of the other lines as well.

Jack Roslovic hit the right wing for the third unit alongside Alex Weinberg and Will Coyle. Filip Chytil has been promoted to right wing from the top line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.

The second line of Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafrenière remained the same.

Matt Rempe skated on the Rangers' fourth line on Friday night.
Matt Rempe skated on the Rangers’ fourth line on Friday night. Charles Wenzelberg

The Rangers played nearly half the game with 11 forwards after Jimmy Vesey was taken out of the game by Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg.

The fourth-line winger remained hunched over on the bench for some time before making his way to the locker room, where he remained for the rest of the game with what the team described as an upper-body injury.

“It’s under evaluation,” Laviolette said. “So we’ll see.”

If Vesey is unable to participate in Game 3, Blake Wheeler will likely make his Rangers debut and compete in his first game since suffering a season-ending injury on February 15.


After Friday’s win, the Rangers are 3-0 in playoff games that will go to overtime in the postseason.


Helped by Vincent Trocheck’s first-period goal, Adam Fox scored his first point since Game 2 of the second-round series against the Hurricanes.

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