How’s that for giving the kid a chance?
Kaapo Kakko got season-high 19:33 of ice time (by one second), playing most of the second period and all of the third on the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad during the Rangers’ 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night at the Garden.
Yet the 18-year-old Kakko, taken No. 2-overall in June’s draft, couldn’t register a point, going into the 10-day break for the All-Star Game and the bye week riding an eight-game pointless streak. In his first 44 NHL games, he has seven goals and 16 points, going without a point in 15 of his previous 16 games.
“I thought he did have extra tonight,” said coach David Quinn, who moved him off his kid line with 20-year-old Filip Chytil and 21-year-old Brett Howden. “I’ve kind of liked his game for a while here. It was something that I contemplated doing earlier. But I’ve liked that young line together, and I just didn’t love them tonight as a group. But I did like his game, so I put him up there.”
The move sent Brendan Lemieux down from that top line, where he started his second game back from almost a month-long absence due to a broken hand, to play with Chytil and Greg McKegg. Brett Howden got only two shifts in the third period and played only 8:24.
There has been a thaw in the relationship between Rangers and Lias Andersson, The Post has learned. Andersson and team president John Davidson have been communicating directly for about the last 10 days, following the 2017 No. 7 pick demanding a trade and then being suspended by the Rangers when he left AHL Hartford to return home to Sweden just before Christmas.
Andersson, 21, has begun to skate/practice with Division II Kungälvs IK, with the Rangers’ approval.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin was sent back to AHL Hartford for the break, with the Wolf Pack playing Friday and Saturday at home. Shesterkin, who played in three NHL games since his recall on Jan. 6, will not participate in the AHL All-Star Game, set to take place in Ontario, Calif., on Monday.
Shesterkin was a healthy scratch Tuesday while Alex Georgiev stopped 14 of 18 shots to end his winning ways against the Islanders, having taken four of the first five contests against the rivals in his short career. Henrik Lundqvist backed up for the seventh time in the past eight games.
Vinni Letteri was named as a late addition to the AHL All-Star Game, putting up 18 goals and 35 points in 42 games for the Wolf Pack this season after having played 46 NHL games, all with the Rangers, including 27 this past season.
Winger Phillip Di Giuseppe was sent back to AHL Hartford without getting into a NHL game following his call-up on Jan. 12.
— with Larry Brooks
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