Panthers Defenseman Explains Late Hit on Rangers’ Filip Chytil

Niko Mikkola of the Florida Panthers completed a late hit on New York Rangers Filip Chytil

Getty Niko Mikkola of the Florida Panthers completed a late hit on New York Rangers Filip Chytil

The New York Rangers are facing a series deficit for the first time in the 2024 playoffs after losing Game 1 3-0 to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, May 22.

With the final outcome settled way before the final horn, a few fans were already outside of Madison Square Garden while others were leaving the venue as Panthers defender Niko Mikkola delivered a late hit on Rangers forward Filip Chytil.

Those who tuned out of the broadcast early missed the hit. However, those present were well aware of it and asked Mikkola about it so he could explain his actions.

“It was a normal play, a normal hit,” Mikkola told reporters after Game 1 on May 22, via Associated Press’ Colby Guy. “I was just trying to get the shutout for [Sergei Bobrovsky.]”

The Panthers beat the Rangers on the road, snatching home-ice advantage from New York and entering Game 2 on Friday, May 24, in possession of a 1-0 series lead.

Filip Chytil Has Missed Significant Time With Concussion Symptoms

Mikkola’s hit would have gone unnoticed if it had occurred at any other point through Game 1. The fact that it was completed with a few seconds left, the score 3-0, and the player on the other end having a history of concussions exacerbated the issue.

Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette, however, didn’t criticize Florida’s physicality throughout the game. Laviolette didn’t think his opponent crossed the line at any point, including the hit on Chytil.

“It was fairly clean,” Laviolette told reporters in his postgame press conference on May 22. “There weren’t a lot of scrums going on out there. They had some hits on us. I thought we had some hits on them. But not a ridiculous number of hits (either way).”

Asked about Chytil’s condition following the hit and after the game, Laviolette said there was nothing worth reporting about the player.

“We don’t have anything to report at this point,” Laviolette said, via Ethan Sears of the New York Post.

Mikkola played with the Rangers in 2023 after New York traded for him midway through the season. He arrived from St. Louise, in the Vladimir Tarasenko trade completed on February 9, 2023, but he departed Manhattan as a free agent in July 2023.

Chytil had just returned to the Rangers lineup and played for the second time in the postseason on May 22.

Chytil missed the final 72 games of the regular season after suffering an “upper-body” injury related to a concussion. He reappeared for the first time in Game 3 of the second round against Carolina and then was out for the rest of the series.

Rangers’ Alternatives If Chytil Misses Time

Losing Chytil would not be good news for a Rangers team facing the strongest opponent of their postseason run to date.

That said, there are many other players that New York can use in replacement of Chytil if he is ruled out for Game 2. In fact, Chytil only played 9:17 minutes in Game 1 and didn’t produce anything remarkable.

If Chytil can’t play or if Laviolette decides to use someone else on the 12th forward spot, the Rangers can feature one of Matt Rempe, Blake Wheeler, or Jonny Brodzinski.

Wheeler hasn’t played since February when he suffered a leg injury. He is coming off scoring 21 points in the regular season and has the largest resume with 1,172 games under his belt.

Brodzinski has a good combination of experience and skills. He appeared in 57 regular-season games scoring 19 goals for the Rangers and he also played in two games of the series against the Hurricanes with the Rangers splitting those two, 1-1.

Rempe, who Rangers legend Mark Messier thinks should play in Game 2, is the third and final option. He is the less skilled of all three alternatives but he’s known to energize the crowd of Madison Square Garden and could provide some spark and physicality against a strong Panthers team.

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