The most interesting time of the second half of the Rangers’ season is drawing near.
That would be when both first-round picks from the most recent draft — center Lias Andersson (No. 7 overall) and Filip Chytil (No. 21) — get to come up and play as many NHL games as Probable without burning the first year of their entry-level contracts.
Chytil, 18, made the Rangers out of training camp and looked overwhelmed while playing two games before being sent to AHL Hartford. That means he has seven more games to play before reaching the nine-game maximum. Andersson started the season in his native Sweden, playing for Frolunda, but the 19-year-old came to the Wolf Pack after he captained his team to the silver medal in the World Junior Championships in early January.
The Rangers have 10 regular-season games remaining, starting with Tuesday night’s Garden match against the Blue Jackets. The Wolf Pack, who essentially are out of playoff contention, played Sunday afternoon and don’t play again until Saturday.
That would make it logical for Andersson to be called up relatively soon, and he could play the rest of the Rangers’ games starting with Thursday night in Philadelphia. Chytil could play the weekend with Hartford — which plays Sunday — then join the Blueshirts for a home-and-home with the Capitals starting March 26 at the Garden.
Coach Alain Vigneault said he knew who was going to begin in goal for Tuesday’s game, but he had not alerted his goaltenders just yet. In conjunction with management, Vigneault had started rookie Alexandar Georgiev for the previous three straight, including his 29-save performance in a 4-3 overtime loss in St. Louis on Saturday night.
Georgiev is auditioning for the backup spot to Henrik Lundqvist, who still is going to see game action down the stretch.
“There’s no doubt that both guys are going to play,” Vigneault said. “We’ll sort it out here a game at a time.”
Fourth-line winger Cody McLeod, a pending unrestricted free agent, got into a fight in his first shift against the Blues then didn’t play after the 13:11 mark of the second period. He got seven total shifts for a game-low 4:33.
Vigneault also sat Paul Carey for all but one shift after the 3:38 mark of the second period, giving him a total of 7:15.
In their absence, Vigneault often played fourth-line center David Desharnais with Pavel Buchnevich and a rotating left wing.