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Rangers' Stepan forgives Canadiens' Prust for late hit

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan still can't eat solid foods. After a hit early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final from Montreal Canadiens forward and former teammate Brandon Prust fractured his jaw, Stepan had surgery and will be eating through a straw for roughly the next six weeks.

He hopes he will be able to eat properly at his wedding this summer. But with the Rangers now moving on to the Stanley Cup Final after a 1-0 victory in Game 6 on Thursday gave them a 4-2 series win against the Canadiens, Stepan has looked past the late hit that earned Prust a two-game suspension.

"I'm not going to hold it against [Prust]. He finished his check," Stepan said after the series-clinching win. "He feels bad about it. He knows it was late. We move on from there."

For the time being, Stepan will continue to wear a protective shield over his face during games and practices. The jaw injury caused him to miss Game 4 against Montreal, the only game he's sat out in his four-season NHL career. Donning his new headware, Stepan returned for Game 5 in Montreal and scored two goals in the Rangers' 7-4 loss.

"The staff and the doctors did an unbelievable job. I give all those guys credit for getting me ready to play hockey," Stepan said. "I was listening to the doctors. I wasn't going to play unless they gave me full clearance and knew that I was going to be protected. Once I got the heads up to go, I got myself ready."

Overjoyed to be close to making his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, Stepan had clearly moved beyond any ill will toward Prust. The taste of victory is sweet, although his diet will remain on the bland side for the next few weeks. With five days off before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, he'll have plenty of time to experiment with his blender.

"Vitamix is a life saver," he said. "I'll see how creative I can get."


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