Alain Vigneault just announced that Derek Stepan suffered a broken jaw on the open-ice hit by Brandon Prust early in the first period of Game 3 on Thursday. Stepan was scheduled to undergo surgery today, and his availability going forward was in doubt.
“Step, right now, at this time, is probably getting operated on,” Vigneault said. “He broke his jaw. We’ll have more of an idea on a time frame tomorrow.”
The loss of Stepan, the team’s top-line center, would be crucial for the Rangers, who have already played the last two games with Derick Brassard. Stepan was tied for second on the club with 11 points in 17 games this postseason.
Brassard, who scored two game-winning goals against the Penguins, was injured on a hit by Montreal’s Mike Weaver early in Game 1 and still has not returned. Vigneault said Friday that Brassard was still “day-to-day.”
After Stepan absorbed the hit from Prust, he missed about six minutes of action before returning midway through the first period. The Rangers said Stepan had X-rays while he was in the locker room and that those X-rays were negative. He continued to feel pain after the game and this morning and saw a specialist Friday morning. Those more in-depth scans revealed the broken jaw.
Vigneault said he was told Stepan was cleared to return, which is why he played after suffering the injury.
Prust was scheduled for a phone hearing today with the NHL Department of Player Safety and could face a suspension. Vigneault seemed to concede that Dan Carcillo would be hit with a lengthy suspension after he had contact with linesman Scott Driscoll during the first-period fight between Prust and Derek Dorsett.
“What saddens me about that hit is that if the call is made on the ice, we’re on a five-minute power play and what happened to Dan Carcillo – and what Dan did is inexcusable, and he’s going to pay a big price for it – but if the call is made on the ice, he’s not put in that position,” Vigneault said.
Although no penalty was called on the play, the Rangers reiterated that the Prust hit was illegal and hope the league will penalize him for it.
“Guys weren’t happy that there wasn’t a penalty on the play,” Chris Kreider said. “Obviously, it was away from the play to begin with, so not a lot of people saw it. I think the sentiment today is the same as it was yesterday: It wasn’t a clean hit and hopefully the league deals with it thusly.”