After what he termed his "hardest skate" since suffering a skull fracture on April 24, Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said yesterday that he was feeling much better and hopes to be ready to play in the team's preseason games.

"That's my goal," Zuccarello said after scrimmaging for 45 minutes with more than 20 other Rangers at the team's practice complex. "I haven't been skating for that long [two weeks], but I wasn't skating super hard ... I've been working out hard, but it took me time to get going before I could do everything and really like, feel in shape. But my head's feeling fine and away we go."

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Zuccarello, who was hospitalized and briefly lost his ability to speak after being struck by defenseman Ryan McDonagh's shot during Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs against the Penguins, seemed engaged along the boards and on offense during yesterday's scrimmage.

The 28-year-old winger, who scored 15 goals and 49 points in 78 games last season and also signed a four-year, $18 million extension, said he has one more checkup with doctors "and after that I'm good to go." He added that he would wear a different helmet with more protection during the season.