Filip Chytil believes he's been having his best season, even...

Filip Chytil believes he's been having his best season, even though he's struggled to produce points. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Filip Chytil had COVID-19 last season, so he understands the NHL’s decision amid a growing number of positive cases around the league to start its Christmas Break a couple days early.

"I'm respecting that, because you never know what can happen even when you are vaccinated,’’ the 22-year-old Rangers forward said Tuesday after the team’s final practice before Christmas.

"I'm not focusing on it,’’ he said. "I’m just trying to live the life like before, but still have the thought in my head that I have to be a little more careful now, and [follow] all the rules what we have now.’’

For the next few days, until the team returns to practice Sunday afternoon to prepare for its scheduled game Monday at Madison Square Garden against the Detroit Red Wings, it’s Chytil’s intention to hang out with his girlfriend and "enjoy the time off, and switch off the head from the hockey, a little bit.’’ He knows when he returns, though, there will be work to do.

"When we get back to playing games, we just have to be 100% ready, and just do what we were doing in the first [30 games], when we were winning,’’ he said.

Chytil, who missed three games in early November with an upper-body injury, said he believes he has been having his best season. But he has struggled to produce points, managing just three goals and four assists (seven points) in 26 games, a pace that would net him nine goals and 21 points in a full season.

There was a stretch where he and his linemates, Alexis Lafreniere and Julien Gauthier, were generating many chances, but he had little to show for it, robbed of sure goals by hot goaltenders and the odd goalpost. Then, without warning, he found himself watching a game last Wednesday in Arizona from the press box as a healthy scratch.

"That's bad I didn't play, because I want to be on ice all the time,’’ he said. "I'm happy that we got two points from that game [a 3-2 win], but I don't want to be sitting in the stands."

He was back in the lineup for the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout loss to Vegas last Friday, a game Artemi Panarin missed with a lower-body injury. He played the wing in that game, though, rather than center. He started at left wing on the third line, with Barclay Goodrow at center and Gauthier on the right, then shifted to right wing on a line with Ryan Strome in the middle and Lafreniere on the left.

He said it was the first time he has played on the wing since the World Championships last spring, when he played one game on the wing for the Czech Republic. But he insisted it wasn’t a problem.

"It’s a little different on the wing, but otherwise it's still hockey,’’ he said. "When I'm on the ice, I want to play as much as I can. And if I will be playing center or wing, this just doesn't matter. Just play, and help the team to win games.’’

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