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Mats Zuccarello hopes to play in Rangers' preseason games

New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello cleans

New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello cleans out his locker and talks to the media on Monday, June 1, 2015, at the MSG Training Center after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lighting. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- After what he termed his "hardest skate" since suffering a skull fracture on April 24, Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said Tuesday 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."

Zuccarello, who was hospitalized and briefly lost his ability to speak after being struck by 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 Tuesday'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.

The Rangers don't officially open camp until Sept. 17, and the first preseason game, against the Devils, is Sept. 21.

Asked if he would have any lingering concerns when facing opponents for the first time in five months, Zuccarello said: "It's hard to say before I go on the ice and play a game if it's going to affect me, but I don't think about it. All I think about is getting back to shape. ... I'm as good as new, as the doctors say, so just go in, and play my game."

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