Rangers center Filip Chytil skated with the team for the first time Thursday since sustaining a hand injury, which was given a four-to-six week timeline to heal, in the 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Jan. 24.
The 21-year-old is still considered “day to day,” according to head coach David Quinn, but he wasn’t entirely ruled out to be back in the lineup as soon as Friday against the Bruins. Quinn said he wanted to see how Chytil was feeling after practice Thursday.
“We’ll have to see him probably in practice a little bit more but we’ll see,” Quinn said. “We haven’t really talked after practice yet so it was a short one [Thursday]. We’ll certainly assess that after we get together as a staff here.”
While recovering from his hand injury, which he sustained in a collision with Pittsburgh forward Evan Rodrigues, Chytil was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Feb. 11. He was removed 10 days later, but revealed Thursday that he did contract the coronavirus.
“I’m happy that these two things both [happened] in the same time because that wouldn’t be good,” Chytil said. “If I was going to get back with my hand [injury] and in another week, I would get COVID. I’m happy I can recover from both of these things and be back now.”
Even though Quinn didn’t make it official, it seems unlikely that Chytil will be available for Friday’s matchup against Boston – when Rangers fans will be allowed at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season – considering he was rotating into the team’s practice lines Thursday.
Asked how many practices he needs before he’s ready to play, Chytil said it’ll depend on how he feels and when the coaching staff wants to put him back in.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow,” said Chytil, who has missed 12 games. “Hopefully, every day is going to be better than the other day. It’s just day by day now.”
Through the first five games of the season, Chytil’s immense development was on full display. He scored two goals and dished one assist, while steadily earning more ice time each game. In the 5-4 overtime loss to the Penguins, the game before his injury, Chytil received 18:21 of ice time.
Chytil made the Rangers that much deeper down the middle, centering the third line, and began to find chemistry with Alexis Lafreniere. He looked more confident with the puck and kept his head up at all times, aspects of his game that needed some work after last season.
Chytil created four high-danger scoring chances and only gave up the puck once in 56 total minutes of ice time, per Natural Stat Trick. He was also getting into a groove on faceoffs, an area the Rangers currently need to improve, winning 15-of-37 to take 40.54 percent from the dots.
“I think those were a great five games for me, I played really good hockey,” he said. “I felt that it was unfortunate I got injured but that belongs to hockey, that belongs to sports. Now I can work on my conditioning, work on my technique with a stick, with a puck and be better than before.
“I just can’t wait to be back and that would be the best thing, to pick up from the last game that I played.”