Filip Chytil will be out 4-6 weeks with what the Rangers are calling an upper body injury, the team announced Tuesday, before opening a two-game series in Buffalo against the Sabres. Chytil was injured in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh after an open-ice collision with Pittsburgh winger Evan Rodrigues.
Chytil, the Rangers’ third-line center, was off to a fast start this season, with two goals and an assist in the first five games. He had been, by far, the Rangers’ best center, and was the driving force on the Rangers’ best line, with wingers Kaapo Kakko and Phillip DiGiuseppe.
"It’s really disappointing,’’ coach David Quinn said. "I feel for Fil, big time. As everybody has talked about, he certainly was getting off to a really good start. We all were watching the player that we know he's capable of being kind of evolve. And it’s really a tough blow for him personally, and a blow for our team to lose a centerman of that caliber. Those guys aren't easy to find.’’
The Rangers entered Tuesday with a 1-3-1 record and in last place in the East Division. Their top two lines – with the exception of right wing Pavel Buchnevich – have underperformed and the team blew third-period leads in both of their losses in Pittsburgh.
No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad, who missed most of training camp because he had the coronavirus, and then missed the end of the game against the Devils after an awkward crash into the boards late in the third period, is seventh on the team in scoring, with one goal and one assist. No. 2 center Ryan Strome scored his first goal (and first point) of the season Sunday.
With Chytil out, Quinn reconfigured his lines, moving Buchnevich, who’s been the best forward since the start of training camp, back up to the first line, with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, who moved back to his natural left wing position. DiGiuseppe, normally a left wing, moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Strome, and No. 1 overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere dropped down to the third line, playing left wing with center Brett Howden and Kakko.
Howden said everyone will have to up his game a little to make up for the loss of Chytil.
"Obviously, it's a big loss,’’ Howden said. "Fil's such an effective player out there when he's on his game, [with] his speed and his skill… he's been playing really well for us, and that's a big dagger for us.
"But we’ve got a lot of guys in the room that can step up and play that role and we got a few centermen on the team too, so I think everybody's just going to have to step up and kind of fill that absence.’’
Chytil was injured after being checked by Rodrigues with 10:49 remaining in the second period, a collision that knocked both players out of the game. Rodrigues came up limping and went directly to the Penguins locker room. He did not return, and on Monday, the Penguins announced he will be out "indefinitely’’ with a lower body injury. Chytil stayed on the bench after the hit, received treatment, and played one more shift before leaving.
With the injury, the Rangers have 22 available players on their active roster, including one extra forward. They have no forwards on the practice squad, after calling up Colin Blackwell to play in Sunday’s game. Quinn said the braintrust has discussed potential callups from their Hartford farm team, which began its training camp Monday. Morgan Barron, the rookie out of Cornell who was assigned to Hartford last Thursday from the practice squad, likely would be a consideration.