Derek Stepan to begin skating; What will the lines look like when Stepan returns?
It was recently announced that Derek Stepan, who has not played this season due to a fractured fibula, will resume skating within the next few days.
Prior to the season opener, Stepan was placed on LTIR, which meant he would miss a minimum of 10 games. This means that Stepan is eligible to return on November 3rd for a home game against St. Louis, and there is no indication that he will not return.
Stepan was integral to the Rangers’ success last season in the regular season and the playoffs. Centering the top line, Stepan scored 17 goals along with 40 assists in all 82 of New York’s regular season games. He also had 5 goals and 10 assists in 24 postseason games.
The Rangers have definitely missed Stepan this season, but have managed to adapt well. Stepan is a good passer, and certainly can be a threat to score. He is also a key piece on the penalty kill, which has had some trouble this season.
Stapan’s return means that the Rangers get their number one center back, when partnered with a now thriving Rick Nash, could be setting him up for a ton of goals.
It also means that they get an instant boost to both sides of the special teams, especially on the penalty kill. Stepan is a good defensive center, and the Rangers will be looking forward to having him back centering the top line.
With Stepan’s return, this brings about questions about what the lines will be when he is inserted into the lineup.
Vigneault has had to juggle the lines following most of the games, and they have only had the same lineup twice this season.
Stepan is almost guaranteed to get his top line role back, despite the recent success of Kevin Hayes alongside Kreider and Nash. Unless Vigneault gives him less minutes to ease him back into play, Hayes will drop down and Stepan will take his spot.
Kevin Hayes will likely remain with the club, as he has caught the eye of coaching and management, but will not be a top-six forward. I imagine Hayes will stay on the third line, and is likely to partner with Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak. Stempniak may bounce around with Zuccarello throughout the year.
Chris Mueller, who is on the fourth line now, will provide depth for the Rangers, and I would be surprised if he does not remain on the roster as an extra forward.
It does not look like Anthony Duclair will remain with the team, as he has been a healthy scratch the last two games. Duclair has 3 assists and a plus-four rating in the 5 games he played with the club, and played relatively well. However, he is still only 19, and another season in Junior Hockey and adding some muscle may do him good.
Stepan will likely center Kreider and Nash, the top line that the Rangers had last year. Brassard will retain the second center role, with St. Louis on his right. Left wing duties may bounce between Zuccarello and Stempniak.
Kevin Hayes, following a string of good games, should stay on the team in the third center spot, with Hagelin and Zuccarello or Stempniak. Hayes has been playing center, but he did play on the wing in college. With New York’s lack of center depth, it is unlikely they will move Hayes to the wing unless they obtain or recall a center.
Stepan will be returning shortly, and he will provide a much needed boost to many aspects of the Rangers’ team.
Posted on October 23, 2014, in In the Crease and tagged Anthony Duclair, Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Chris Mueller, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Henrik Lundqvist, Kevin Hayes, Kevin Klein, King Henrik, Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal, Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, Matt Hunwick, Michael Kostka, Montreal Canadiens, MSG, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL, NHL 2014-2015 Season, NY Rangers, NYR, overtime winner, Rangers Nation, Rangers Season Opener, Rangerstown, Rick Nash, Ryan Malone, Ryan McDonagh, The Duke, The Ranger Zone. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.