Stepan missed Game 4 after suffering a broken jaw in Game 3 and his status was truly a game-time decision in Game 5, a potential close-out game for the Rangers. He took a brief morning skate sporting a cage around his surgically repaired jaw but coach Alain Vigneault said a few more steps would have to happen before Stepan could be OK'd to play.
"There are a lot of things that have to happen for him to play tonight," Vigneault said. "We are going to talk to him this afternoon and see how he reacted to the practice. Nutrition, obviously, is an issue at this time, so later on today we'll talk to our doctors and we'll talk to him and we'll see how it works out."
Apparently the Rangers liked all of what they saw because after Stepan took part in warmups, he was back in the official lineup for the Rangers. During warmups he was taking part on line rushes on the Rangers' top line with his usual partners Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
Stepan suffered the broken jaw in the opening minutes of Game 3 on a hit that earned Brandon Prust a two-game suspension for interference. He did return in Game 3 after being cleared but a later scan after the game revealed his jaw was indeed fractured.
In Game 4 without Stepan, the Rangers seemed to get by just fine as they welcomed back Derick Brassard, who scored a huge goal late in the game.
This season the 23-year-old Stepan had 17 goals and 40 assists in 82 games and in the playoffs has three goals, eight assists in 17 games.