Will Cuylle of the Rangers celebrates his second-period goal against the...

Will Cuylle of the Rangers celebrates his second-period goal against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 17, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Will Cuylle was back in the Rangers’ lineup Tuesday for their game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden after taking a turn in the press box as a healthy scratch in Saturday’s win over Florida. And as one might imagine, he was happy to be back.

“Yeah, definitely,’’ Cuylle said after the Rangers’ optional morning skate at the Garden. “Very excited.’’

Cuylle, 22, had played in each of the Rangers’ first 70 games before coach Peter Laviolette made the decision to leave him out of the lineup Saturday. It wasn’t because of any deficiency in the rookie left wing’s game, or any kind of slippage in his performance, or some mistake he had made that needed to be punished. Rather, it was just a situation where the Rangers are carrying 13 forwards in these final weeks of the regular season and Laviolette has said he doesn’t want anyone sitting out too long and getting stale.

So that means the coach will be rotating players in and out of the lineup. And as Laviolette explained last week, the veteran, big-minutes players are going to play if they’re healthy. So that means the players who are going to occasionally sit out are going to be the younger, less experienced players, such as Cuylle, rookie Matt Rempe, and long-time minor leaguer Jonny Brodzinski, who is older than the others, but is in his first year as a regular NHLer.

“We had conversations with multiple people,’’ Laviolette said. “It's not about Will. He was not in last game, but he'll be back in tonight … As I said the other day, I'd love to play 13 forwards. Nobody deserves to come out. But that's where we're at.’’

Certainly, Cuylle understood the coach’s decision and accepted it. But it doesn’t mean it was easy for him.

“I was pretty disappointed,’’ he said. “Obviously, I want to play every night and want to do whatever I can to help the team win. So it's obviously tough watching from off the ice. But it is what it is. I just kind of worry about the things I can control.’’

What Cuylle has been able to control has been his ability to play a physical, forechecking game. He leads the Rangers in hits with 227, which was most among rookies, and tied for fifth in the league entering Tuesday.

“I always try to be physical and finish hits,’’ the 6-3, 210-pound Toronto native said. “I never really try to like, run around, or be an idiot out on the ice, but I'm always trying to finish hits and play the game hard. I feel like that's my game. So that's how I try to play every game.’’

But he’s not just a hitter. He has 12 goals and eight assists this season while playing mostly in a third-line role. He has averaged 11:05 of ice time per game.

“I think I've accomplished a lot and just kind of showed everyone around this team and some other teams what I can do and just how I play,’’ Cuylle said. “I’ve just kind of made a little bit of a name for myself, I think.’’

More Rangers


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months