Filip Chytil played his first game since suffering a broken hand in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, and though the 21-year-old center had his moments in the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday night at the Garden, most of the time it looked it.
“Fil always gives you moments where he jumps off the page at you because he’s got that great speed, but he’s only had two real practices with the team and he’s been out a long time,” coach David Quinn said. “We were just hoping he got through it healthy.
“He gave us a little bit of speed and a little bit of a jolt but certainly he’s finding his game and it may take a little bit of time before he gets back to where he left off.”
Chytil, who missed 14 games, played 16:08 centering Kevin Rooney and Julien Gauthier. One of the primary reasons Rooney, a natural center, moved to the flank on that unit was so he could take faceoffs. Of course, Rooney, the team leader at the dots entering the match at 47.9 percent, went 0-for-7 on draws in this one.
Igor Shesterkin, his team leading 3-2 with 52 seconds to go and the net empty at the other end of the ice after Carter Hutton had been pulled for the extra attacker, took a shot at the freebie by launching the puck out of the zone.
Alas, it was knocked down in the neutral zone. A couple of more attempts were short-circuited before the goaltender could take his shot.
“I was skating back and kind of yelling, ‘Just go for it,’ ” said Adam Fox, who had a pair of assists in 23:47. “With him playing the puck, I feel just as confident as myself playing the puck.
“You know, he’s real good, real strong on his stick, so even though he didn’t get it all the way there, but he got it out and that’s enough when they have to try and regroup in the neutral zone.
“He’s great playing the puck. I’m sure he’ll get one in his career.”
Kaapo Kakko missed his fifth straight game since going on the COVID-protocol list on Jan. 20, though he came off the list Tuesday.
“Kaapo will start the return to play protocol,” Quinn said. “We’ll just see how that goes.”
It is unlikely he would be able to play Thursday in the first of two at New Jersey. Saturday is a target for Kakko, who had gone five straight without a point and had registered just one point (0-1) in his last 10 matches despite playing a solid brand of hockey.
Quinn said he is in daily contract with Artemi Panarin, who missed his fourth game since taking a leave of absence in the wake of the unsubstantiated assault charges levied against him in Russia by Andrei Nazarov.
“I talk to Bread daily, and he has been doing some skating,” Quinn said. “Again, we’re just waiting day to day for the right time for him to come back.”
Jacob Trouba, who was on a four-to-six week recovery timeline after breaking his thumb in a Feb. 16 defeat to the Devils, has been skating regularly.
“He’s making a lot of good progress,” Quinn said. “We’re expecting him back sooner than later.”
Chris Kreider’s goal was his team-leading 10th of the season and sixth in the last five games.
The Rangers held the Sabres to five shots in the third period and 24 for the match while amassing a season-low of 19 shots themselves after cobbling only 21 shots on Sunday against Boston. … The game featured a total of only 44 faceoffs. … The Blueshirts, 8-9-3, embark on a six-game road trip that opens at the Devils. The Rangers then will have a pair in Pittsburgh before two in Boston.