Filip Chytil #72 of the Rangers skates during the first period...

Filip Chytil #72 of the Rangers skates during the first period against the Florida Panthers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Filip Chytil was back in the lineup for the Rangers Thursday when they were back in Madison Square Garden hosting the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.

The 24-year-old Czech forward had been left out of the Rangers’ Game 4 lineup Tuesday because the coaching staff decided he needed a break after having played three games in five days in the previous week. This after he had played just one game in the previous six-and-a-half months as he is making his way back from what is presumed to be a concussion.

“I think there's been some honest conversations with Fil and the staff and myself, and just with regard to where he's at,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said at Thursday’s morning skate. “It's got to do with the schedule, it's got to do with how he's feeling, it's got to do with how he's playing… He had a real extended amount of time off and it was an uphill journey to get back to this point where he's now available to our team for games. And so we just want to make sure that we manage him properly.’’

The Rangers, though, need all hands on deck right now if they are to get past big, bad Florida and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. And Chytil is a player whose speed and skill they need.

In Game 5, he was set up to play right wing on the Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider line, and the Rangers were certainly hoping that trio might mesh well, and maybe get Zibanejad and Kreider going (zero points in the first four games of the series).

“These two guys are unbelievable players, and I’ve known them for so long,’’ Chytil said of Zibanejad and Kreider. “And it's been a pleasure for me to play with them, and I'm trying to, of course, bring some energy there, as well, when I'm out there.’’

While the Rangers’ focus is on the now, and the two wins they need to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, if Chytil can click with Zibanejad and Kreider for the remainder of the playoffs, it would solve a problem that has existed ever since Pavel Buchnevich was traded away in the summer of 2021.

Since Buchnevich left there has been a parade of players who have gotten a turn on the right side of Kreider and Zibanejad, but none have stuck. Chytil played some there, way back in 2018-19, and Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere had looks on the line the last couple years.

Trade-deadline pickups Frank Vatrano and Vladimir Tarasenko both looked good in that spot in limited runs the last two springs, but Jack Roslovic, who was plugged in on the line after arriving at this year’s trade deadline, hasn’t seemed to click  with them the way Vatrano and Tarasenko did.

“They've been playing with each other for a while, so they definitely know each other,’’ Roslovic said of Kreider and Zibanejad. “You've tried to find a player that fits them the best, and… you get a third guy in there that, a lot of times that guy's fast, and can make plays and keep up with those guys and get them the puck.’’

Roslovic is fast, but it’s not just speed Kreider and Zibanejad need in a linemate. Neither Vatrano nor Tarasenko were known for their speed, and they worked out. And during the regular season, Blake Wheeler, who is far from fast, had some success with them, too, before he was injured in mid-February.

Chytil, who started this season as the second-line center between Artemi Panarin and Lafreniere, would seem to have a lot of elements that would make him a good candidate to succeed with Kreider and Zibanejad. He is fast, creative, is always looking to shoot the puck and has a hunger to score.

On Wednesday, when talking about the search for a suitable right wing for Kreider and Zibanejad, Laviolette mentioned Chytil and called him a Top-6 forward. But as a center, which is his primary position, Chytil may not be in the Top 6, since Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck are entrenched in the top two center spots.

So if Chytil is going to be in the Top 6 next season, he will most likely have to switch to the wing. Putting him with Kreider and Zibanejad seems like it could be a natural fit, especially if it goes well the rest of this spring.

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