Tuesday night’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres was the low point of the past two weeks for the New York Rangers, and marked the first time since Feb. 23 that the team had lost by more than one goal. Rick Nash’s 10-game point streak came to an end, but young center Derek Stepan scored a goal for the second consecutive game and has put together a very respectable seven points in six games to start the month of March.
Stepan has scored goals in four of the Rangers last seven games, and had a pair of assists in back-to-back games against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders earlier this month. He has six power play points and two game-winning goals this season while proving more than capable of second-line duty in just his third NHL season. The Rangers drafted Stepan in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and he would play two seasons at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro. His rookie season with the Rangers was a a memorable one, as he scored 21 goals while adding 24 assists. He scored 11 goals last season but put up a career-high 51 points to finish fourth on the team in scoring.
This season has seen Stepan center a line that also features Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik, a trio that could be top line elsewhere. With Nash, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin on the top line, the Rangers have been able to win five of their last seven games while averaging almost three goals per game. Stepan is in the final year of his entry-level deal, meaning the Rangers are getting his services for a bargain price. They need to make every effort to re-sign him at the end of the season, as he would likely get quite a payday elsewhere.