SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kaapo Kakko returned to the lineup for the New York Rangers for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena on Sunday.

Kakko replaced Jimmy Vesey, who is week to week with an upper-body injury he sustained in the second period of the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime win in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Friday that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.

Kakko was a healthy scratch in Game 2. It was the first time he was a healthy scratch in a game since June 11, 2022, which was Game 6 of the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kakko skated as the right wing on the third line with center Alex Wennberg and Jack Roslovic, who moved from the right wing to the left wing to accommodate Kakko's return to his normal position on the right side.

Kakko has two points (one goal, one assist) in 11 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had two shots on goal in 10:27 of ice time in Game 1, a 3-0 Panthers win.

Matt Rempe remains in the Rangers’ lineup for the second straight game as the right wing on the fourth line.

Will Cuylle has dropped down from the third line to the fourth line to replace Vesey in that spot.

Barclay Goodrow remains the center on the fourth line.

Prior to the game, Rangers coach Peter Laviolette was asked about Kakko and why he was a healthy scratch in Game 2. He did not go into detail.

"I needed to make a decision," Laviolette said. "There's a lot of things that factor into these decisions. We don't take them lightly. So, we made a decision that it was Kakko."

Vesey sustained the injury on a hit from Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg at 11:48 of the second period of Game 2.

Vesey has three points (one goal, two assists) and is averaging 11:11 of ice time in 12 games in the playoffs. He is a regular on the penalty kill, part of the third rotation with Wennberg and averaging 1:07 of shorthanded ice time per game in the playoffs.

But the Rangers still have Vincent Trocheck (2:43 of short-handed ice time per game), Goodrow (2:29), Mika Zibanejad (2:09), Chris Kreider (1:54) and Wennberg (1:18) to kill penalties.

"They've done the bulk of the heavy lifting so those guys will probably look to take on a lot of it," Laviolette said.

Blake Wheeler was also on the ice for pregame warmups, but he will be a healthy scratch.

Wheeler hasn't played since Feb. 15, when he sustained a lower-body injury in a game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden and had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher.

He resumed skating on his own in mid-April and returned to practice with the Rangers earlier this month. Wheeler has been practicing with contact since May 13.

"Now that he's back, and this is not far off from where we were with other players that were off significantly, we want to make sure when they do come back, they're also effective inside the game," Laviolette said. "Every day he's working hard, really hard to get back to where he was prior to the injury and there's been significant strides with that."