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Rangers rookie Filip Chytil prefers being in the middle of things

Rangers center Filip Chytil skates with the puck

Rangers center Filip Chytil skates with the puck against the Red Wings during the first period of a game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Filip Chytil was flat on his back and feeling miserable with the flu for two days, but Rangers coach David Quinn found the best medicine for the 19-year-old rookie: He played him at center on Tuesday at the Garden against the Detroit Red Wings.

The result was an energetic performance that featured four shots on goal and several scoring chances created by the Czech forward in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss. Chytil laughed when asked if moving to center was the reason he had so much energy, but he made it clear that he was really happy to have moved back to his natural position.

“I don’t know if I had energy, because the two days before I was just lying in bed and was sick,’’ he said after the Rangers returned to practice Thursday after Wednesday’s day off. “But that was something that was probably in my head . . . that I am back in the middle and I can play more . . . and create chances, [and] have chances by myself. I like to play center, so [to] be in the middle, skate a lot, that’s my game.’’

It was a game Quinn said he liked very much.

“I liked Fil in the middle,’’ Quinn said. “I thought Fil, for a guy coming off the flu, had a lot of jump. That being said, I liked his game two games ago, too, and the one after that wasn’t so good, so I don’t know if it was a position switch, or if he just had a good night, but obviously, we envision him, and would like him to be a center, moving forward. With his skating ability, we think it frees him up more, so I’m anxious to see how this continues to move forward.’’

Chytil said he didn’t remember the last time he played center. For the record, it was Nov. 12, in the 18th game of the season, against Vancouver, when he was the fourth-line center, playing between Cody McLeod and Vinni Lettieri. He scored his first goal of the season that night, a power-play goal that started a five-game scoring streak for him. After that, he found himself on the left wing on the first line, with Mika Zibanejad and Vlad Namestnikov. He had six shots on goal in 14:08 in a 2-1 win that night, and had been a winger ever since, until Tuesday.

“I felt comfortable there and I felt . . . I don’t know, I played center my whole life, so maybe going back and playing in the middle was great,’’ he said. “And I was happy that [Quinn] made the move, and I can play in the middle right now.’’

Notes & quotes: Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider and Marc Staal did not practice. Fast was out because of the same injury he’s been managing for months, and Quinn admitted the Rangers are thinking about shutting him down for the season. “We haven’t finally made a decision, but we’re certainly leaning in that direction,’’ he said. Kreider and Staal both have lower-body injuries, and are considered day-to-day.

New York Sports