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Rangers forward Stepan possible for Game 5

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- New York Rangers center Derek Stepan traveled here with the team Monday, and coach Alain Vigneault did not rule him out of Game 5 of Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and would reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994 with a win.

Stepan missed Game 4 with a broken jaw sustained in Game 3 on a hit by Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, who will serve the final game of his two-game NHL suspension.

Vigneault said there was no medical benefit to leaving Stepan in New York.

"There’s no way to treat a broken jaw," Vigneault said Monday evening, "so he wanted to be around his teammates."

Forward J.T. Miller did not make the trip because of an upper-body injury sustained early in the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win in Game 4, when he crashed into the Montreal goal post.

If Stepan is unable to play, Vigneault said he would use Jesper Fast or Oscar Lindberg, who joined the Rangers for the trip to Montreal, to replace Miller in Game 5. Forward Derick Brassard returned from injury to take Stepan's place in Game 4.

Vigneault said the minimum Stepan would have to do to be considered available for Game 5 would be to take part in the morning skate. If he is able to play, Stepan would need to wear some sort of facial protection, Vigneault said; he had no other update on Stepan's condition.

"We traveled [Monday], so I didn’t speak to any of our doctors," Vigneault said.

The loss of Stepan for Game 4 was somewhat mitigated by the return of Brassard, who was injured early in Game 1 on a hit by Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver. Brassard scored a goal and won 18 of 24 faceoffs in Game 4, centering his usual line with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot.

"He played a big, strong game," Vigneault said of Brassard. "He got us a goal in the end of the second period. In the last minute of any period, which is definitely a pressure point in games, start of periods, end of periods, that was a big goal.

"He played some important minutes considering we were shorthanded for the amount of time that we were (the Rangers faced eight power plays against). He's not a player that we use to kill penalties. It was good to see him back in the lineup, and hopefully he'll just get better. He missed a couple days there, and hopefully he'll just get better."

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