The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1, but lost center Derek Stepan to a broken jaw in Game 3. Stepan’s injury makes Brassard’s return all the more important.
Not only does Brassard stabilize depth at the center ice position, he’s also been a key player to New York’s success all season long. Brassard’s line with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot has been New York’s best line for most of the postseason, so Brassard’s return couldn’t come sooner for the Rangers.
Perhaps Brassard is rushing back to the lineup because of Stepan’s injury, but only time will tell. He has seven points in 15 playoff games, and scored two game-winning goals in the second round. The Rangers need to maintain focus after losing a tough game in overtime in Game 3.
Brassard will be important to helping the Rangers maintain puck possession. His line cycles the puck very effectively and plays hard on the boards, which wears down the opposition’s defense. The Rangers will need to win the possession battle to set the tone in Game 4.
His impact will remain to be seen during the game, but simply his presence in the lineup is important. Coach Alain Vigneault has a decision on who will take Stepan’s spot in the lineup, but Brassard will slide back into his usual spot between Zuccarello and Pouliot.
Brassard excelled in his first full season with the Rangers, and they’re happy to have him back. Now that Stepan is out indefinitely, New York will need Brassard to win this series.