Rangers: How Filip Chytil’s return from injury will affect opening night plans

NYR, Rangers, New York Rangers, Filip Chytil
Feb 6, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) during the second period against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have experienced a handful of injuries throughout training camp and preseason so far. Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Brennan Othmann, and Filip Chytil have all been labeled as day-to-day at some point in recent weeks, and almost all of them have returned to full health.

The only player who has not returned from injury yet is Chytil, a key player that the Rangers will need in order to find success early on this season. Head coach Peter Laviolette has gotten time to experiment with different line combinations throughout camp, but a lack of Chytil has caused changes that will need to be altered if he returns before opening night on October 12th.

Veteran forward will likely get demoted when Chytil returns

Although each lineup the Rangers have used throughout training camp is experimental, there has been one common theme in each combination tested. Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck, and Barclay Goodrow have been the top three centers on a consistent basis. While Zibanejad is a lock for the first line and Trocheck is all but confirmed for the second, Goodrow appears to be the odd man out.

When Chytil returns from injury, whenever that may be, Goodrow will be the man booted out of the third-line center position. As a dynamic player who knows all three offensive positions, it’s possible that Goodrow could remain on the Rangers’ third line as a winger. However, based on his set of skills and abilities, he may be better suited on the fourth line.

There is no confirmed lineup just yet, but Chytil will undeniably be given a center position when he returns. It is possible that he moves up to the second line and Trocheck moves down to the third, but the only confirmed thing is that Goodrow will not be the 3C when Chytil returns.

Chytil should get added to the Rangers’ second power-play unit

Similarly to the 5v5 lines, Laviolette has spent significant time putting together the Rangers’ power play units. The first unit is already close to confirmed as it contains most of the Rangers’ top star power, but the second still needs to be tweaked.

Per Vince Mercogliano, earlier today during practice, the Rangers were testing a PP2 consisting of K’Andre Miller, Erik Gustafsson, Will Cuylle, Blake Wheeler, and Kaapo Kakko. Alexis Lafreniere will likely replace Cuylle when the Rangers make their final roster cuts, but that still leaves this unit with no center. Zibanejad and Trocheck are both featured on PP1, indicating that someone will get booted off the PP2 for Chytil when he returns.

It’s likely that either Miller or Gustafsson will be replaced by Chytil. The power play needs a center to win face-offs and gain offensive possession, and there is really no need for two defensemen. Both Miller and Gustafsson are very offensive-minded players, so either would be a good fit to remain on the PP2 when Chytil is back. It’ll be up to Laviolette to decide when the time comes.

Will Chytil return before opening night?

At this point, Chytil has already been injured much longer than anticipated. He was originally labeled as day-to-day, but it has now been over a week since the injury was first reported. Although nothing is set in stone just yet, Laviolette appears to be hopeful about Chytil playing on opening night:

It’s good news that Chytil is hopeful to play on opening night, which should be the ultimate goal for the Rangers. However, it would be nice to see him practice with the team at least a few times during training camp. Laviolette has been constantly experimenting with different players in different roles, and it will be hard to tell what works and what doesn’t without one of their key centers in the mix.

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