Rangers receive positive injury news on veteran forward

NHL: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Wheeler may not play another shift for the New York Rangers this season. But the veteran forward has taken an important step in his recovery from a significant lower-body injury.

“Blake did skate on his own today,” coach Peter Laviolette said after practice Friday.

Though not much of an update, the news is positive considering Wheeler was thought to be out the rest of the season after sustaining an ugly-looking injury in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 15. Wheeler was hurt on a hit by Canadiens defenseman Jayden Struble and his right leg buckled when he tried to get up.

Chris Kreider told Forever Blueshirts at the time that it was “heartbreaking” to see what happened to Wheeler.

So, his return to the ice likely provided his teammates an extra lift as it prepared for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round playoff series against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

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Blake Wheeler skating on own for Rangers after significant injury

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

Wheeler, who can be an unrestricted free agent at the of the season, had 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 54 games with the Rangers. He toggled between the first line and third during his first season with the Rangers, and remains a respected veteran leader.

“The impact he’s had on and off the ice has been great for us,” Mika Zibanejad said shortly after Wheeler’s injury. “Unbelievable player. Unbelievable person and teammate.”

The 37-year-old reportedly has been around the team more as of late, though no one is saying anything about him being able to play at any point in the postseason.

The Rangers recently welcomed Flip Chytil back to practice as a full participant. Chytil has not played since November because of an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion and had six assists in 10 games this season. Obviously, he is further along in his recovery, though the Rangers have not stated if he’s an option for the playoffs or not.

After Wheeler was injured, the Rangers acquired Jack Roslovic in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 8. The 27-year-old played 19 games with the Rangers, largely on right wing alongside Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. He scored three goals and added five assists, and is expected tobe on the top line when the Rangers host the Capitals in the opener of their best-of-7 series Sunday.

Unless he’s able to come back, the Rangers will miss Wheeler’s postseason experience. He’s played 65 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins, including a run with the Jets to the 2018 Western Conference Final, when he had 21 points in 17 games.

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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