Filip Chytil ‘can’t wait to be out there’ for Rangers as Game 1 decision looms

NHL: New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY SportsCredit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The braintrust of the New York Rangers isn’t saying if Filip Chytil will play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. But Chytil sure made it sound like he’s going to be in the lineup.

Speaking to reporters after practice Tuesday, the 24-year-old forward sounded excited “to be involved in tomorrow’s game.” On top of that, Chytil again skated at left wing on the third line with Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko at practice.

“I can’t wait to be out there on the ice and enjoy that atmosphere,” Chytil said. “But most importantly to give them (Rangers fans) the win tomorrow and start with 1-0.”

That sounds like a guy who’s going to be in the lineup, no?

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette hasn’t confirmed anything, nor will he, ahead of the opener of this best-of-7 series. And general manager Chris Drury met with the media Tuesday, discussed Chytil, but wasn’t giving away any secrets either.

“It’s been a long year for Fil. We’re excited he’s practiced … let’s see where the next 24 hours go,” Drury said. “It’s Lavy’s lineup, but it’s good to have options.”

Related: Chris Drury believes ‘love for each other’ sets Rangers apart

Filip Chytil trending to playing Game 1 for Rangers against Panthers

NHL: New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY SportsCredit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Laviolette didn’t handle any Chytil questions Tuesday. But the coach did say the day before “I thought Fil looked good. He had a good practice. So, that’s a positive for us.”

Chytil’s return comes with some trepidation. He’s played one game since sustaining an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion Nov. 2. That was Game 3 of New York’s second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, when Chytil logged 12 minutes on the third line.

However, he missed Game 4 with an illness and wasn’t in the lineup the final two games of the series, either. So, there’s rust there, with just one game played in more than six months.

But the upside is substantial. Chytil scored an NHL career-high 22 goals last season and had six assists in 10 games this season. If on his game, Chytil could provide a massive boost to the third line, which has scored twice in 10 postseason games, so far.

His return also lengthens the lineup because third-line staple Will Cuylle would slide back to the fourth line. That leaves Blake Wheeler, Matt Rempe and Jonny Brodzinski as extra forwards.

Chytil is excited about likely playing his first game at The Garden since that ill-fated night of Nov. 2 against the Hurricanes.

“It’s a very long time,” Chytil said. “I could see during the games we have great crowds, great fans.”

As for the long layoff, Drury explained that Chytil and the Rangers handled things the right way, including an extended time away from the team back home in Czechia for Chytil in January.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, his and all the players’ health and well-being are first and foremost every day,” Drury said. “But we’re certainly glad he got back to playing Game 3 and excited to see what the next 24 hours bring and if he’s a possibility for tomorrow.”

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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