Where Filip Chytil fits in likely return to Rangers lineup for Game 5 vs. Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After being a healthy scratch Tuesday, it appears that Filip Chytil will return to the New York Rangers lineup when they host the Florida Panthers in a crucial Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday.

Not only does it appear Chytil will play, but he very well could be back on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. The 24-year-old has been in that spot before during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there’s extra added importance now with this best-of-7 series tied 2-2.

In addition, neither Zibanejad, Kreider nor Chytil has a point in this series. So, if they do skate on the same line, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on each player. For Chytil, there’s also the added nugget that he’s playing for the just the fifth time in nearly seven months after sustaining an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion on Nov. 2.

The three took line rushes together during the morning skate Thursday. Chytil also was on the second power-play unit with Alexis Lafreniere, Alex Wennberg, Jack Roslovic and Erik Gustafsson.

Zibanejad and Kreider were badly out-attempted (19-5) when on the ice together 5v5 in New York’s 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Tuesday. Kreider did not record a shot on goal and had one attempt in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. Zibanejad had six shots on goal, with several good looks on the power play. However, his turnover in overtime led to Blake Wheeler’s hooking penalty on the backcheck, which resulted shortly thereafter in a game-winning power-play goal by Florida’s Sam Reinhart.

With Chytil scratched, Roslovic started Game 4 at right wing with Zibanejad and Kreider. Rangers coach Peter Laviolette them bumped Kaapo Kakko up to that line for a spark that never materialized.

Chytil was scratched because the Ranger remain careful pushing him after such a long time on the sidelines.

“This is just part of Fil’s coming back after such a long layoff and what we feel is best for him, to continue to move forward for us” Laviolette explained Tuesday. “You’re asking a lot for a guy who’s missed six months to come back and get up to that speed. So, this is part of the plan for him.”

Related: Important Rangers adjustment needed for Game 5 against Panthers

Rangers may tweak lines, defense pairings for Game 5 against Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

With Chytil’s return, Wheeler is expected to be the odd-man out for the Rangers on Thursday. The 37-year-old forward returned from a three-month injury absence to play Game 4 and took the critical penalty in overtime. Overall he had four hits and two blocked shots in just under 10 minutes of ice time.

Wheeler also showed a lot of class Wednesday, taking full responsibility for his penalty, even though he was chasing Aleksander Barkov only after Zibanejad’s giveaway.

“I’ve replayed it a million times between last night and this morning and I own that play,” Wheeler said. “I talked to [goalieĀ Igor Shesterkin] about it after and asked him if he would prefer me to just let him take that look. If there’s anyone I trust to make that save it’s him. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing.”

Wheeler was an extra forward at the morning skate. Matt Rempe, Barclay Goodrow and Will Cuylle made up the fourth line. Kakko and Roslovic were both on the third line with Wennberg.

The Rangers may shake up their defense pairings a bit for Game 5. During the morning skate, Braden Schneider was back with K’Andre Miller, and Jacob Trouba was paired with Gustafsson. That’s how the Rangers opened the first nine games of these playoffs. In the past five games, Trouba was with Miller, and Schneider skated with Gustafsson.

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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