One injured Rangers forward returns, as another leads OT celebration

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the New York Rangers enjoyed a special night in Raleigh, North Carolina. Obviously, Artemi Panarin scoring just 1:43 into overtime to give the Blueshirts a 3-0 series grip over the Carolina Hurricanes was a big reason why. But the surprise return of Filip Chytil was another.

After an arduous six months since sustaining a suspected concussion on November 2, that included a setback in January leading to the Rangers ruling him out for the remainder of the regular season, the 24-year-old forward successfully returned to the lineup in Game 3 against the Hurricanes.

“In one moment, I felt like this team is unbelievable without me for a whole season with what they did,” Chytil explained. “With me we can be even better. I just love this team. I love these players. I love everybody in this organization. In one moment I just realized I wanted to be back, and I did everything for that, and we’re here today.”

Related: Filip Chytil makes surprise return for Game 3

Filip Chytil returns to Rangers lineup

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long road for the Rangers 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) to get back, and to the organization’s credit, they did not rush him. From the moment he resumed practicing on April 12, Rangers coach Peter Laviolette refused to place a timetable on his recovery.

“He’s been working really hard,” Laviolette revealed Thursday. “I thought the medical staff and coaches did an unbelievable job over the last month for a possible re-entry. He’s been attacking to get back to that point, and we agreed that time was now. … I thought he got better and better as the game went along.”

In the postgame celebration, Chytil’s smile lit up the visitor’s dressing room like the summer sun. He was absolutely overjoyed to put those dark days behind him after playing 12:02 in his return. During his triumphant return, he registered a shot on goal, was credited with two hits, and also took a few.

“I’ve never felt better when somebody hit me,” he joked via The Athletic. “I was so happy. It gave me the adrenaline, what I missed in the last six months. Even this, when it’s painful, it was feeling good.”

Chytilhad six assists in 10 games before missing the final 72 regular-season contests. However, he’s finally back in the Eastern Conference Second Round thanks to organization, his family and girlfriend. All were credited last night for his successful comeback.

“We’re so happy to get him back,” Chris Kreider said. “It’s been a long frustrating road, so having him around has been amazing. To have him come in — buzz around out there, and having a positive impact was awesome.”

Meanwhile, another injured forward working his way back from a season-ending leg injury sustained in February is practicing and traveling with the team.

Blake Wheeler, wearing a suit, was right up against the glass celebrating with Panarin and company during the overtime winner. It was great to see the 37-year-old veteran giving high-fives to the players as they made their way back to the dressing room. This is yet another testament to Laviolette and his approach to running his team like a family.

So, could the big winger be available if the Rangers continue to advance in these playoffs? The rumblings suggest that it’s a distinct possibility. Prior to getting hurt, he notched 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 54 games.

The Rangers will now prepare to try and sweep the Hurricanes on Saturday, when they square off for Game 4 at PNC Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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