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Derek Stepan 'unlikely' to play in Game 4, Derick Brassard to return

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Derek Stepan had surgery Friday after suffering a broken jaw in Game 3. (USATSI)
Derek Stepan had surgery Friday after suffering a broken jaw in Game 3. (USATSI)

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This comes as little surprise, but New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan probably won't play in Game 4 after undergoing surgery to repair his fractured jaw. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault did not give specifics when addressing the media after Saturday's practice, but said that Stepan was still in the hospital, making it "unlikely" he would play.

Stepan was injured early in Game 3 when he took a check from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, who received a two-game suspension for the hit. Stepan remained in the game after initial X-rays showed no signs of the fracture. More tests later showed that there was indeed a fracture.

With Stepan still in the hospital recovering from surgery, Game 4 seemed like a longshot, but the bigger question is how long will he be out. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the Rangers center had a metal plate inserted to stabilize the jaw. That's something to be concerned about as Stepan has been a top performer for the Rangers, centering Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash most frequently. Losing a player like that with the series still very much up for grabs is a tough blow.

Stepan is second on the Rangers with 11 points this postseason.

It wasn't all bad news Saturday for the Rangers, however. Derick Brassard declared himself ready to play in Game 4. He had been out since taking a big hit from Mike Weaver in Game 1. Brassard has really taken his game to another level in the postseason, while skating with the Rangers' most consistent line with Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello. Brassard was excellent in the Rangers' series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and has four goals in these playoffs.

Brassard's likely return softens the blow of being without Stepan, but the Rangers won't easily replace that loss of depth. Daniel Carcillo being suspended for 10 games also doesn't help matters, leaving less experienced players like J.T. Miller or Jesper Fast to fill in up front.

With the Rangers up 2-1, heading into a rather big Game 4, the pressure is on for some other players to step up for New York in the biggest games yet for the club.

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