USATSI_8954575_154158418_lowresThe New York Rangers have announced that forward Derek Stepan will be out indefinitely after suffering broken ribs in Friday’s loss to the Boston Bruins. The injury came when the centre took a late hit from Matt Beleskey in the second period.

Stepan attempted to stay in the game, but he didn’t return to the ice for the third period.

“We lost a really good player and a key player for us, and hopefully he’s going to be back soon,” Rangers forward Derick Brassard said.

“In our opinion, it was a late hit,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “More than a second, and he was a couple of feet away from the boards. So we’ll have to wait and see. I remember Aaron Rome in this building, 0.6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final, so (it will) be interesting to see.”

Vigneault is referring to the hit made by then-Vancouver Canucks forward Rome on Nathan Horton from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Horton sustained a severe concussion and Rome was given a four game suspension.

After the hit, Dylan McIlrath dropped the mitts with Beleskey. Both were given fighting majors, with McIlrath earning an instigator penalty and a game misconduct.

As for Beleskey, he took the road typically travelled. “I just think he didn’t think I was going to hit him,” he said. “He kind of didn’t brace himself. I didn’t take any extra strides or anything like that. Maybe, maybe, a little bit late. But he saw me coming, I came from the front. So, it’s unfortunate that…I think I just saw he’s injured, so hopefully he’s all right.”

This is a pretty big blow for the Rangers, who’ve been able to make it through the early season without any serious injuries.

Stepan has a dozen points in 23 games and will be replaced, at least for now, by Kevin Hayes. The Blueshirts will also likely put Viktor Stalberg back in the lineup and Emerson Etem is expected to see more ice time as well.

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