New York Rangers center Derek Stepan is ready to move on from the incident that broke his jaw in the Eastern Conference final against the Montreal Canadiens.
Habs forward Brandon Prust delivered a high, late hit to Stepan’s head in the first period of Game 3. The collision broke Stepan’s jaw and forced him to miss Game 4 after undergoing surgery to treat the injury. Prust was suspended two games for the hit.
“I’m not going to hold it against him,” Stepan said Thursday night after his team eliminated the Canadiens with a 1-0 Game 6 win at Madison Square Garden. “He finished his check. He feels bad about it. He knows it was late. We move on from there.”
After Game 6, the two teams met in the post-series handshake line, where Stepan and Prust had a brief, respectful conversation.
Stepan returned to the series in Game 5 and scored two goals. He didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the protective mask he wore to prevent additional contact with his jaw.
“I wasn’t going to play unless (the doctors) gave me full clearance and knew I was going to be protected,” Stepan said. “Once I got the heads up to go, I got myself ready to play.”
Stepan finished the series with three goals and four assists in five games. He will be a key part of the Rangers’ offensive game plan in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins June 4 in Chicago or Los Angeles.