MONTREAL -- The New York Rangers have the chance to close out their series against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday night and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals. After a dramatic 3-2 overtime win over the Habs at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Blueshirts take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 and look to deliver the final blow to their third-round foe. The potential return of Derek Stepan could certainly go a long way in helping those matters. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are desperate to keep their Cup hopes afloat as they turn again to 24-year-old goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
Stepan status: Just four days after undergoing surgery to repair a broken jaw sustained in Game 3, Stepan is already back skating, as the 23-year-old center took line rushes with the team during Tuesday's morning skate. Stepan, who wore a facial protector attached to his helmet, will be a game-time decision, with coach Alain Vigneault stressing the need for the player to receive full medical clearance first. The decision will ultimately be up to the team docs, Vigneault said.
Been there before: The Rangers know better than anyone that a 3-1 series deficit is daunting but not impossible. New York battled back from that very same hole in the second round, winning three straight games to upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Habs have accomplished the feat before as well, pulling off a dramatic comeback against the Washington Capitals in 2010. The Rangers don't want to give Montreal any sliver of optimism Tuesday night, knowing how dangerous just a small dose of belief can be. Said veteran Martin St. Louis: "You don't want to give them any hope."
Juggling personnel: With J.T. Miller back at home in New York with an upper-body injury and Stepan a game-time decision, the Rangers have a pair of young Swedes at their disposal in Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, who could draw into the lineup in a pinch.
Injury intrigue: Stepan's presence on the ice Tuesday morning wasn’t the only skate that had folks buzzing. Injured Habs netminder Carey Price, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1 and was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the series, skated in full gear Tuesday. That, of course, led some to speculate that he could be closer to returning than originally anticipated, but coach Michel Therrien quickly snuffed out any hopes of seeing Price in this series. Therrien said nothing has changed regarding his availability against the Rangers and that the star goaltender simply needed to skate as part of his rehab process.