NEW YORK -- New York Rangers center Derek Stepan is learning the inevitable lesson that coming back from an extended absence because of an injury is hard work and requires as much mental stamina as it does physical stamina.
Stepan will play his third game of the season Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
He returned last Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs, and played again Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. He had an assist in New York's 5-4 loss to Toronto, but his missed defensive assignment on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins resulted in Edmonton's first goal in the Oilers' 3-1 win.
"I wish I could tell you right now, 'Hey, we had back-to-back and now I can start going,'" Stepan said. "I wish I could say that I got my two games in and now I'm ready to go, but ideally I need to find ways to play 60 minutes, closer to what I did in Toronto, and just slowly start getting my game back."
Stepan missed the first 11 games of the season after fracturing his right leg in training camp. He previously had not missed a regular-season game in his career, a span of 294 games.