Filip Chytil describes ‘unbelievable’ return to Rangers lineup after six-month absence

It’s been a journey this season for Rangers forward Filip Chytil.

His season appeared to be over after he suffered a setback while working his way back from an upper-body injury sustained earlier this year in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Chytil returned home to be around friends and family, but he continued working on his own before finally being cleared to get back on the ice with the team just two games before the end of the regular season. 

Still without a timeline for a return, though, he remained a healthy scratch through those final two games and the first six postseason games, before it was finally time in Game 3 of New York’s second-round matchup with that same Carolina squad.

"He’s been working hard,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought the training staff and the skills coaches did an unbelievable job over the last month ramping him up for a possible return. He’s been attacking every day to get to that point where we all agreed that the time is now. 

"Coming off that last game with just one day of rest, it ended late and we had to travel down here, we knew we needed to try to maximize our bench as much as we could, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity for him to re-enter into the lineup."

With fan favorite Matt Rempe being bumped to the press box as a healthy scratch, Chytil slotted back in on the right wing on New York’s third line alongside Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko. 

The 24-year-old expectedly showed some signs of rust, but he settled in nicely, collecting a pair of hits. And he almost buried a big insurance goal with a beautiful move to the net late in the third period.

"He got better and better as the game went on," Laviolette said. "You wouldn’t have known that he was off for however long it was, he came in and gave us some quality minutes and that line gave us good minutes as well."

Most importantly, though, Chytil said that he felt good after logging just over 12 minutes of ice time in the thrilling overtime win. 

"I feel unbelievable," he said. "That adrenaline is what I needed after not having it for six months. I wasn’t even nervous before the game. I was just excited to be with the guys and to play again. I enjoyed every minute, it was a great day and an unbelievable win for us."

The Rangers finished as the top team in hockey even with their young star sidelined, so now that he’s back, Chytil is confident he can help take them to another level on their quest for the Stanley Cup. 

"This team is unbelievable, what they did without me for a full season," he said. "But I know with me we can be even better. I love this team. I love these players. I love everybody in the organization. I realized I wanted to be back and did everything for that leading up to this point."

Chytil will certainly be back in the lineup when New York looks to secure its second straight sweep and eighth consecutive postseason victory on Saturday night in Carolina.