Blake Wheeler returns, Filip Chytil scratched for Rangers in Game 4 vs. Panthers

NHL: New York Rangers at Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Wheeler returned from a three-month injury absence when the New York Rangers visited the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday.

It was Wheeler’s first game action since the veteran forward sustained a lower-body injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 15. The 37-year-old was declared out for the rest of the regular season at that point, but has stunned many by being able to even be an option for Rangers coach Peter Laviolette the past week or so.

Wheeler told Vince Mercogliano of Gannett on Monday, “If I go in, they know I’m going to go through a brick wall for this team.”

Filip Chytil was a healthy scratch Tuesday after playing the first three games of this best-of-7 series, which the Rangers lead 2-1. Chytil is without a point in four postseason games after missing six months with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion.

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Blake Wheeler plays Game 4 for Rangers vs. Panthers, 1st game in 14 weeks after injury

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at New York Rangers
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Wheeler skated on the fourth line with playoff hero Barclay Goodrow and 6-foot-8 rookie Matt Rempe, who was in for his third consecutive game in this series after being scratched in Game 1.

Will Cuylle moved back up to the third line, to skate alongside Kaapo Kakko and Alex Wennberg, who scored the overtime winner in Game 3 on Sunday. Jack Roslovic, who was on the third line Sunday, slid back up to the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider to replace Chytil.

Wheeler has 65 games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience with 10 goals and 45 points in those games. He helped the Winnipeg Jets reach the 2018 Western Conference Final but has never won the Stanley Cup.

He played 54 games with the Rangers this season, his first in New York, and finished with nine goals and 21 points. Despite minimal offensive production, Wheeler was lauded by teammates this season as an important veteran leader, both on and off the ice.

His return to practice a couple weeks ago provided an emotional lift to the Blueshirts. And it was even more special for the Rangers that he was back in the lineup Tuesday.

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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