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Rangers' Wheeler available for Eastern Conference Final

Darcy Finley / National Hockey League / Getty

Blake Wheeler is available to play in the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers should the New York Rangers find a spot for him in the lineup.

Wheeler was placed on injured reserve in February with a season-ending leg injury but recently shed his no-contact jersey in practice and hopes to return to game action.

"I think once you get rid of the red jersey, and the fact they take me off of the injured reserve, I think that's been my goal the whole time since I got hurt: to be an option and be available again. And that's where we're at," Wheeler said, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "It's going to be in the coach's hands from there, but I'm ready in any capacity I can to help out."

New York signed Wheeler last summer after he was bought out by the Winnipeg Jets. The 37-year-old registered 21 points in 54 games as a Ranger before his injury.

It's unclear who the red-hot Rangers will pull out of the lineup if Wheeler slots in. New York is 8-2 so far in the playoffs while averaging 3.50 goals per game.

Wheeler began the season in a top-six role but will take any ice time he can get as he chases the first Stanley Cup of his 16-year career.

"You sit on the couch watching these guys play ... I just want to be back with the guys, with the group on the ice with them, in any capacity I can," Wheeler said. "They're a heck of a group in here. I've had just a blast playing with these guys all year. And then certainly the run they've been on, just like I said, that's the motivation right there."

The Eastern Conference Final is scheduled to begin Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers last reached the third round in 2022 and haven't been to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

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