There’s another injured Rangers forward ‘champing at the bit’ to return

NHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers
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For the first time in six months, Filip Chytil was in the New York Rangers lineup on Thursday. His return from an upper-body injury was a welcome subplot to New York’s 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.

And on Friday, Rangers coach Peter Laviolette admitted there are other players on the roster “champing at the bit” to get in the lineup during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including another forward working his way back from injury.

Blake Wheeler has been practicing with a no-contact jersey this week, attempting to return from a gruesome lower-body injury sustained three months ago. The 37-year-old forward was also pounding the glass in Raleigh as his teammates celebrated Artemi Panarin’s game-winning goal 1:43 into overtime Thursday, and later high-fiving them on the way to the locker room. So, his passion is not in question.

“Everybody’s got to play. We’ve got some good players and some depth is coming back to us,” Laviolette told reporters Friday. “You see Blake out here now in a different color jersey. I don’t have a timetable on him, but there could be something down the road for him, who knows? There’s guys that are champing at the bit to play.”

By the look of things Thursday night, it’s safe to say Wheeler, who’s never won the Stanley Cup in 16 NHL seasons, is hungry to return when/if he is again healthy enough to do so.

“I mean, you saw him last night. It was awesome,” Laviolette said. “You got a teammate like that, that’s standing outside the glass that wants more than anything to be inside that glass and in that huddle.”

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Blake Wheeler next Rangers forward trying to return from injury during Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
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Wheeler has a ways to go and several obstacles before the Rangers would even consider him. First, the playoffs are nearly halfway over, and that’s assuming the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final. Then he still has to be fully healed. And finally Laviolette would have to decide whether to tinker with his lineup or not.

Chytil joined the third line Thursday, skating with Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko, playing slightly more than 12 minutes. To accommodate Chytil, Will Cuylle moved down to the fourth line and Matt Rempe was scratched.

So, that means there a healthy Rempe, not to mention Jonny Brodzinski, waiting in the wings to play again.

But Laviolette wasn’t afraid to get Chytil back in there even though the forward hadn’t played since Nov. 2 because of a suspected concussion.

“He’s been working really hard,” Laviolette revealed postgame. “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.”

Chytil finished with one shot on goal and two hits. More importantly, he took some bumps without any issues, and should be back in the lineup when the Rangers look to finish a sweep against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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