Rangers' Filip Chytil sounds ready to return for Game 1 of Eastern Conference Final against Panthers

The 2023-24 season has been an arduous one for Rangers forward Filip Chytil. Missing most of the season with an upper-body injury that was suspected to be a concussion, Chytil played just 10 regular season games.

Chytil was finally able to return for Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, but he logged just 12 minutes of ice time and missed the rest of the series due to what the team called illness and soreness.

Now, with the Rangers set to take on the Florida Panthers with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, Chytil has been making strides towards a return.

Chytil has been skating at practice the last two days on the Rangers' third line, playing left wing alongside Kaapo Kakko and Alex Wennberg, while also working on the second power-play unit, which certainly makes it seem like he is trending towards playing.

“It’s been a long year for Fil. We’re excited. He practiced yesterday and we’ll see how the next 24 hours go,” GM Chris Drury said on Tuesday. “As I’ve said, it’s [head coach Peter Laviolette’s] lineup, but it’s good to have options. As we’ve said from the beginning, his and every player’s health and wellbeing are first and foremost every single day, but we’re certainly glad he got back to playing Game 3, and excited to see what the next 24 hours bring and see if he’s a possibility for tomorrow."

If Chytil can indeed go in Wednesday’s Game 1, it would be his first time on the Madison Square Garden ice since Nov. 2.

“Very long time since the last time, but I could see during the games that there’s a great crowd, we have great fans, so I can’t wait to be out there on the ice and enjoy that atmosphere,” Chytil said, “but most importantly to give them the win tomorrow and start (the series) 1-0.”

As Drury noted, Laviolette will have the final say as to whether or not the forward is in the lineup for Game 1, granted he’s healthy enough to go. But for Chytil, just to be in a spot where he has the opportunity to play is something that he doesn’t take lightly.

“I’m always thinking about hockey,” he said. “Even in the moments I was back home and resting and enjoying my time with the family, I was still talking about hockey. Even when I watched the highlights in the morning of the guys, I was visualizing that I’m there with them. That I’m here at this time, it’s beautiful for myself, and I can’t wait for the game tomorrow.”