Winger Kaapo Kakko skated with the Rangers on Thursday for the first time since going on the COVID-19 protocol list Feb. 20.
“He’s still day-to-day, so he’s certainly close,” head coach David Quinn said before the Rangers faced the Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday night. “Good to have him back out there. He hasn’t really had a chance — that was his first time on the ice.
“We’re certainly going to put him in the game at the right time for a variety of reasons.”
It was Kakko’s second stint on the COVID-protocol list. The first kept him out of just one game (Feb. 1), due to a false positive. But the 20-year-old Finn has missed the past six games.
After Kakko came off the coronavirus protocol list, Quinn said he would have to go through return-to-play protocol before returning to the lineup.
Kakko was beginning to find a home on the Rangers’ second line next to Ryan Strome and Alexis Lafreniere before landing on the list. Through 14 games, he had two goals and an assist.
Defensemen Jacob Trouba (broken thumb) and Anthony Bitetto (lower-body injury) also participated in the morning skate and could return soon.
“It does [put a pep in everybody’s step],” Quinn said of having players return. “Obviously when you get guys closer to the lineup you create more depth. You’re going to have a better chance to win hockey games.
“So I’m sure some guys were excited, some guys nervous. These guys are good players and they’re going to step in the lineup when they’re ready to go. But overall it’s a good feeling guys get excited.”
Igor Shesterkin made his second-straight start Thursday, which would be his fifth in the last eight games.
Braden Schneider, the Rangers’ 19th-overall pick in the 2020 draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract Wednesday that is set to begin in 2021-22.
The deal carries a cap hit of $925,000 and an average annual value of $1,325,000. The 19-year-old defenseman is expected to participate in next season’s NHL training camp. If he doesn’t make the opening night roster, he’ll be sent to AHL Hartford.
Defenseman Mason Geertson signed a two-way deal Wednesday and was placed on waivers in order for the Rangers to have more options for their taxi squad.
After agreeing to terms on an AHL contract with the Wolf Pack on Sept. 29, 2019, Geertson had played 64 games in Hartford. In four games this year, the 25-year-old had an assist and 11 penalty minutes.
With 109 penalty minutes in 2019-20, Geertson led all AHL defensemen in the category. The Avalanche’s fourth-round pick in 2013 had skated in 281 career AHL games over parts of seven seasons.