Why Filip Chytil is trending to play Game 1 for Rangers against Panthers

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

By this point, you know New York Rangers coach Peter Laviolette is not going to hand over any lineup information during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And as we inch closer to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, it doesn’t appear Laviolette is even going to answer specific questions about certain players.

So, it’s a bit like reading tea leaves when trying to understand what the full Rangers lineup will look like Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

However, judging by how they lined up Monday at practice, Filip Chytil is trending toward beginning the best-of-7 series on left wing of the third line. The 24-year-old skated with Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko in that spot throughout practice, and Will Cuylle moved down to the fourth line alongside Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey.

“I thought Fil looked good. He had a good practice. So, that’s a positive for us,” Laviolette said.

That’s exactly how the Rangers lined up in the bottom six for Game 3 of their second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes when Chytil played his first game in six months after sustaining an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion on Nov. 2.

Of course, that lasted on game. Chytil missed Game 4 with an illness and didn’t play the final two games of the series either. But after sharing his desire to get back into the lineup in a chat with the media Sunday, he was on the third line Monday, two days before the series opener against the Panthers.

“I want to play,” Chytil told Gannett’s Vince Mercogliano. “I didn’t join to just watch the guys from the stands and have a vacation in New York and Florida. I want to play. I’m going to do my best any time I get put in the lineup.”

Related: Rangers learn first-hand from Knicks how important depth is in playoffs

Filip Chytil could make Rangers lineup even deeper

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Rangers forward Will Cuylle — James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Chytil had six assists in 10 games this season, starting out as the center between Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere. Of course, Vincent Trocheck replaced the injured Chytil in that role and had an All-Star season and is tied for the Rangers playoff lead with 14 points and is second with six goals.

So, Chytil is not replacing Trocheck. But playing left wing on the third line, Chytil has the skillset to help make that line more productive. The third line has two goals in 10 playoffs games, one each by Cuylle and Kakko.

“For anybody that comes into the lineup, we’ve got to do our job,” Laviolette explained, sidestepping a direct question about Chytil. “If you’re a defensive, physical player, you’ve got to bring that to the table. If you’re a guy that creates, then you’ve got to come in and create. … So, everyone has got get their hands on the rope and make sure we’re all pulling in the right direction.”

Cuylle adds a bit more skill to the fourth line, lengthening the lineup even more. The rookie scored 13 goals in the regular season. He’s also a big aggressive forward, one who led the Rangers and all NHL rookies with 249 hits this season. He has 29 hits, third on the Rangers, in the postseason.

Matt Rempe, Jonny Brodzinski and Blake Wheeler were the extra forwards at practice. Wheeler is healthy and considered a lineup option after missing three months with a lower-body injury.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

Mentioned in this article:

More About: