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Stepan thought he was playing in an actual game

by Dave Lozo
Being a rookie in the NHL is a learning experience. The Rangers' Derek Stepan figured that out quick after registering a hat trick on opening night, then failing to score in his next 18 games.

Stepan made the adjustment and earned a trip to the All-Star weekend thanks to his 14 goals and 16 assists.

But he was under the impression that his All-Star selection meant he would be playing in a game and not just the skills competition.

"I originally thought there was a rookie game. Hasn't there been in the past?" said Stepan, referring to the YoungStars Game that won't take place this year. "But then I found I was just in the skills comp, that's all I really know at this point."

Stepan got over his disappointment and is gearing up for the SuperSkills Competition that takes place tonight. He said he won't find out what competition he'll get until right before the start of the event.

There a few rookies Stepan knows from his world junior time. The Ducks' Cam Fowler was a fellow member of Team USA and Edmonton's Taylor Hall was part of Team Canada. Stepan also played with Carolina's Jamie McBain at Wisconsin.

Stepan offered an interesting assessment of his comfort level in Raleigh.

"I know everyone here, but a lot of guys probably don't know who I am," Stepan said. "There's so many good hockey players here."

Stepan said the Rangers, who are facing a slew of injuries, were happy to get the break despite playing well. The Rangers are currently without Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Erik Christensen, Alex Frolov, Dan Girardi, Vinny Prospal and Derek Boogaard.

And those are the players who are just hurt now. The Rangers also missed Chris Drury for two months and Marian Gaborik for 12 games.

Has Stepan seen anything like this at any level of his playing career?

"No, and I asked some of the older guys. I asked Dru if he'd ever seen anything like this and he said never," Stepan said. "He's never seen anything close to this."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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