Stepan Hopeful For Lightning, Richards and Torts Return to Tampa

Rangers forward Derek Stepan is hopeful to play tonight when the Rangers play the Tampa Bay Lightning after blocking a shot late in the team’s 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night.

Stepan had difficulty returning to the bench after blocking the shot with his ankle, but returned to the ice his next shift. Reports said his ankle was swelled. X-rays on the ankle came back negative.

“It’s a little sore this morning, we’re trying to help it,” Stepan said Friday morning. When Andrew Gross at Rangers Rants asked if he was concerned about not playing against the Lightning, Stepan responded by saying “no, I’m trying to look at it in a positive way. I’ll probably try to skate tomorrow. No, I will skate tomorrow. It was right on the bone but we took pictures and everything came back good. It was a weird spot, it was hard to get feeling in my feet. There was the puck in the zone and there was a lot of action but I couldn’t put any weight on it. The swelling wasn’t too bad, there was a little bit today but not too bad.”

Tonight will make the first time both John Tortorella and Brad Richards have been in Tampa Bay together since their days as members of the Lighting several years ago. It’s also the first time Richards, Tortorella and Ruslan Fedotenko, also a member of the 2004 Stanley Cup team, return to their old stomping grounds together.

“Yeah, it’s probably going to be a different,” Richards said. “It’s Feds, too. It’s always special coming back.”

Richards said it’s always been special returning to the city where he won his only Cup, as well as the Conn Smythe trophy for MVP of the playoffs. “They were emotional times,” said Richards, who will play the Lightning in Tampa for just the third time since being traded in 2008. Since he played in the Western Conference, teams don’t always play each other in the other’s arena. “It’s not easy. They’re all great friends and we won. We won something special that year. We thought we’d be here forever. We thought we would have more chances to win.”

Fedotenko, who has played in Tampa much more than Richards as a member of the Rangers, Penguins and Islanders, said it isn’t a big deal for him anymore. “No, it’s been a long time,” he said. “We won a Cup and that’s always a great but it’s just another game, another opponent.”

It was great to see Stepan return after blocking the shot with his leg, and even better news X-rays come back. Stepan exemplified the style and commitment to winning hockey games by any means necessary by blocking that shot. The swelling in his ankle will no doubt begin to subside, but I expect him in the lineup.

As for Richards getting sentimental for returning to Tampa, it’s expected. It’s the team that drafted him, where he won a Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy. He hasn’t played much there since he left a couple years ago. Fedotenko has played his team close to 20 times since he left, and after a while, it begins to wear off.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

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2 Responses to Stepan Hopeful For Lightning, Richards and Torts Return to Tampa

  1. Marc Weissman says:

    Anyone else shocked to realize it was ESPO who drafted both Richards and Vinny Lecavalier back in 1998? Never would’ve guess that! 🙂

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