Injured Rangers forward needs to be in ‘position for success’ before returning

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Whether Blake Wheeler will be in position to help the New York Rangers during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring is not yet known. But what is known is that he Rangers will absolutely not rush the 37-year-old forward back from a lower-body injury.

“He’s full go at practice, but he’s just recently gotten to this point,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters Tuesday. “We want to make sure he’s in a position for success.”

Wheeler, who was injured in a February game against the Montreal Canadiens only returned as a full participant at Rangers practice on Monday. He had been skating with the team in a no-contact jersey prior to that.

But now he’s able to take contact and will be ramping up his conditioning, strength and timing, trying to get back into game shape.

After the morning skate Monday, Laviolette discussed Wheeler taking the next big step coming back from injury.

“It’s really good,” Laviolette said. “It’s a long road and, sometimes, it’s a lonely road too, where we’re going about our business and he’s off in a different room doing his thing at different times.

“It’s nice to have him out there and available and good to go in full.”

Related: Vincent Trocheck ‘knew it wasn’t going to be easy’ to put Hurricanes away

Blake Wheeler won’t be rushed by Rangers to return from injury

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

Despite losing their past two games, the Rangers lead the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round. It’d appear that New York would need to win this series for Wheeler to have any shot at being an option in the lineup, since he likely wouldn’t be ready this week.

Wheeler had nine goals and 21 points in 54 points this season, his first with the Rangers. In 65 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Wheeler has 10 goals and 45 points.

Right now the bottom six has played well through nine playoff games. Filip Chytil’s return to play in Game 3 after missing six months with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion already lengthened New York’s playoff roster and lineup options. Chytil was scratched with an illness in Game 4 and also did not play in the Game 5 loss at home on Monday.

Matt Rempe has played seven games on the fourth line and Jonny Brodzinski has appeared in one game so far.

The Rangers will try to finish off the Hurricanes in Game 6 in Raleigh on Thursday.

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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