Filip Chytil of the Rangers skates against the Carolina Hurricanes in...

Filip Chytil of the Rangers skates against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 9 in Raleigh, N.C. Credit: Getty Images

GREENBURGH — First of all, Filip Chytil feels great, he said.

Although the 24-year-old forward wasn’t about to discuss the illness the Rangers said prevented him from playing in Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes — after he made his return in Game 3 — he made it clear Sunday that that is in the past.

Chytil also made it clear that he is ready and itching to go Wednesday night when the Rangers begin the Eastern Conference final at Madison Square Garden against the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.

“Of course I want to play games. That’s why we practice,’’ he said. “What are we practicing for? We’re not practicing to [just keep practicing]. Of course I’m happy I can go through [practice] because I didn’t do that the whole season. I can go through the drills, [preparing for] what can happen in the games. But of course playing the game is the best thing . . . and that’s where I want to be.

“It’s nice that I can see that the whole team [succeeded] the whole season and . . . I see how [well] we’re playing in the playoffs. But I want to play . . . I didn’t just join to watch guys from the stands and have vacation in New York and in Florida. I want to play and I’m gonna do my best any time I’m picked in the lineup.’’

Though the Rangers have never confirmed it, Chytil is believed to have suffered a concussion when he bumped into Hurricanes forward Jesper Fast in a Nov. 2 game. He looked ready to return in late January but suffered a setback, and the team announced during the All-Star break that he would miss the rest of the season.

But he was cleared to return to full-contact practices and made a surprise return to practice on April 12, just before the regular season ended. He sat out the first playoff series against Washington and the first two games of the Carolina series before coach Peter Laviolette put him in for Game 3. He played 12 minutes, 2 seconds, dished out a couple of hits and took one, officially. Afterward, he said he felt great and said it “never felt better that somebody hit me or I hit anybody.”

But then he missed Game 4 because of an illness, the team said. And he missed Game 5 with soreness not related to the original injury. He returned to practice two days later but didn’t play in Game 6.

Meanwhile, Blake Wheeler, who suffered a leg injury in mid-February and who also returned to practice in the postseason, spoke to the media Sunday and also suggested that he is ready to come back.

“I think once you get rid of the red [no-contact] jersey, and the fact they take me off of being on injured reserve [means I’m ready],’’ he said. “That’s kind of been my goal the whole time, since I got hurt, was to be an option and be available again. And that’s where we’re at.’’

Laviolette, who has been adamant that he won’t discuss potential lineup issues in the playoffs, tiptoed around the question of whether everyone on the roster is available to play.

“We’re working toward that,’’ he said. “Everybody’s . . . been on the ice. And as of recently, there’s not been any restrictions on players.’’

If Chytil and now Wheeler are legitimate lineup options, that is a good thing for Laviolette. Chytil can add speed and the ability to create scoring chances, and he won’t be shy about shooting the puck. In Game 3, he played left wing on the third line with Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko. That line could use someone who is going to create chances and is willing to shoot.

And when and if Wheeler returns, he brings a 6-5, 222-pound body and a resume of 65 playoff games (10 goals, 45 points) to the lineup. Whose spot he would take is a problem Laviolette would have to resolve. But as the saying goes, that would be a good problem to have.

Notes & quotes: After taking Friday and Saturday off, the Rangers had an optional practice Sunday. Everyone participated except for Ds Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller . . . Third-string goalie Louis Domingue also practiced with the extras, which is notable because goalie Dylan Garand had been called up from AHL Hartford on Thursday for Game 6 because Domingue was “banged up.’’ Garand was returned to Hartford on Saturday.

More Rangers


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months