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Derek Stepan close to returning for Rangers

Derek Stepan of the Rangers celebrates his first

Derek Stepan of the Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Montreal Canadiens during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 27, 2014 in Montreal. Credit: Getty Images / Francois Laplante

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Rangers center Derek Stepan, sidelined since training camp with a broken fibula, is close to returning to practice.

"I would say in the next four to seven days he should be back on ice with us," head coach Alain Vigneault said.

Vigneault did not pinpoint when Stepan, who is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Monday, would play in a game.

"It's going to take a couple practices to see how he feels," he said. "I know he's been working, been skating real hard the past three or four days and working in the gym."

The loss of Stepan, 24, the team's second leading scorer last season, has derailed the center position. Vigneault has used six players at center: Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, J.T. Miller (now in Hartford), Chris Mueller, rookie Kevin Hayes and career right wing Martin St. Louis.

"The good thing is, anybody I play with Rick [Nash] right now, he seems to be producing anyway," said Vigneault.

Nash has scored nine goals in nine games for the Rangers.

"That's real positive," Vigneault said. "I just need to sort out the other pieces around him. The great thing about Nasher is he can play the left and the right side. Sometimes I hope he can play the middle."

Kostka likely to see Moore's time

With defenseman John Moore suspended five games for his high hit on Minnesota's Erik Haula on Monday, Michael Kostka, is expected to step in on Saturday against Winnipeg.

Kostka, who was signed as a free agent, fared poorly in his only start on Oct. 14, a 6-3 loss to the Islanders when he committed two turnovers that led directly to goals.

"I think we stay with the six, we'll wait and see what happens, but I'm comfortable with the guys we have," Vigneault said.

Beyond Saturday, he isn't sure.

"We'll talk to [assistant general manager] Jeff [Gorton] and [President and GM] Glen [Sather] and sort it out."

So a callup from Hartford is possible. The Rangers host the Blues next Monday and Red Wings next Wednesday.

Blue notes

Ryan Malone was out for a maintenance day but is expected back on Friday. The Rangers are off Thursday . . . On Wednesday, the lines were Mats Zuccarello-Brassard-Nash; Chris Kreider-St. Louis-Anthony Duclair; Carl Hagelin-Dom Moore-Lee Stempniak; Tanner Glass-Hayes-Mueller, although Mueller took some faceoffs . . . The top four defenseman alternated, as did John Moore, Matt Hunwick and Kostka.

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