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PHOTO: Rangers' Derek Stepan returns to practice with face shield

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

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After requiring surgery to repair his fractured jaw, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan took part in the team's morning skate Tuesday ahead of Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. Stepan was wearing full facial protection, with his normal visor and a large plastic jaw guard.

Via the Rangers:

Stepan took part in the full practice and was not wearing a no-contact jersey, meaning he very well could play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 after the surgery, which reportedly included the insertion of a metal plate to stabilize the jaw.

Stepan was injured early in Game 3 by a late, high hit from Brandon Prust. The Habs forward was suspended two games for interference. He'll serve the second game Tuesday night.

If the Rangers get Stepan back for Game 5, it immediately solves a serious depth issue, which was made worse when it was revealed that young forward J.T. Miller, who played in Game 4, did not travel with the team to Montreal while dealing with an upper-body injury.

Getting Stepan back between Chris Kreider and Rick Nash makes that line much more effective and improves the top six overall in concert with the exceptional play of Martin St. Louis in this series and Brad Richards this postseason.

The Rangers have struggled to stay healthy in this series, losing Derick Brassard for two games and then Stepan for the one, assuming he returns tonight. The club has also been left shorthanded by Daniel Carcillo's 10-game suspension for abuse of officials.

The fact that they really haven't missed a beat despite losing some depth and in Brassard and Stepan, key players this postseason, makes the Rangers performance in the Eastern Conference Final that much more impressive. Now they could have both back in the lineup for an elimination game.

They'll hope to close out the series Tuesday night in Montreal.

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