Filip Chytil saw an abundance of playing time in the Rangers’ preseason finale against the Islanders on Saturday night, and the 22-year-old center made the most of it amid Ryan Strome’s early exit with what is believed to be a minor hand injury.
Even though Strome’s injury isn’t ringing any alarm bells, Chytil certainly showed that he is capable of taking over those big minutes if need be.
Chytil posted a hat trick in the Rangers’ 5-4 overtime win, which included the game-winner at 2:06 of the extra period with a four-on-three advantage. The Czech center also led the Blueshirts with four shots on goal.
“A lot of confidence for him, for sure,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of Chytil. “He’s played really good the last few games and he’s a guy that wants more ice time. Keep doing what he’s doing. He wants to play center, we want him at center and all that good stuff. He played great [Saturday night] and he buried his chances.”
Prior to Saturday’s win, Chytil had only one multi-goal game in his career and had never scored in overtime during the previous four seasons. Chytil isn’t usually on the ice in OT, but without Strome and at the rate No. 72 was going on Saturday, Gallant had him take the first overtime shift with Vitali Kravtsov and Adam Fox.
The Rangers have plenty of options should Strome’s injury turn out to be more serious. Aside from Chytil, Barclay Goodrow and Morgan Barron can also step into that role in the middle.
By Monday, the Rangers have to trim their roster to 23. There may be even more decisions to make with the possibility of Reaves and/or Strome going on the 10-day injured list.
The preseason was a crucial time for the Rangers, like every other NHL team. But with new management, a new coach and several new faces to integrate into a team that has missed the playoffs the last four seasons, the Rangers needed every last bit of the six-game exhibition schedule to get a feel for the product the organization could put out on the ice.
Gallant experimented with line combinations, special teams units and even got some reps switching up the lines amid in-game injuries.
“I think we’re getting ready,” Gallant said after Saturday’s overtime win against the Islanders’ varsity. “I mean, the last three games, we played pretty good hockey and against pretty good hockey teams. So I’m pretty excited.”
“They’re exhibition games, they don’t count, but I like the way we grew as a team and we’re playing the style that I want us to play a little bit more. They’re getting better and they’re getting ready for the season. That’s what it’s all about.
“It was good to win a game like [Saturday night], it was an emotional game there in the third period. [The Islanders] came back and we went ahead again, so it was good to finish it off on the power play. The power play and special teams were pretty good.”
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