GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Rangers center Derek Stepan, who was second on the team in scoring last season, will be sidelined 4-6 weeks after he fractured his left fibula while skating in non-contact conditioning drills Wednesday morning, the team said.
Stepan, who had 17 goals and 57 points, will miss the season opener in St. Louis on Oct. 9 and likely another half-dozen games. As a result, the Rangers' depth in the middle -- as well as the power play -- will be tested early.
No. 2 center Derick Brassard will move to the first line as coach Alain Vigneault and his staff weigh the options beyond that during the remaining five preseason games. "We've got a good list of candidates, now we have to put them in situations and see how they respond to the opportunity," Vigneault said.
The fracture was near the same spot struck by a shot on Sept. 9 during an informal workout. Stepan was held out of a Sunday scrimmage and Monday's game against the Devils. But three X-rays, including one before the drills Wednesday, indicated no problem and was cleared to skate. "He was feeling real good the last 48 hours," Vigneault said.
Stepan began skating from one end of the rink, collapsed, shouted in pain, and fell to the ice while grabbing his leg. He was helped to the bench by Mats Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis.
With Brassard moving up, veteran Dominic Moore, primarily a fourth-line center last season, could be installed on the second or third line, Vigneault said.
"When Step went down in the playoffs against Montreal and Brass went down, and Richie [Brad Richards] stepped back, Dom stepped up . . . that's definitely in our possibilities."
Richards was bought out in June and signed with Chicago.
Other centers in camp include former No. 1 draft pick J.T. Miller, 21, who had two assists and played well in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Devils; Matt Lombardi, 32, who signed a two-year deal after playing in Switzerland last season; Oscar Lindberg, 22, a two-way player who impressed in the second half of last season in Hartford; Chris Mueller, 28, who scored 25 goals in 60 games for the AHL Texas Stars last season, and 6-4 Kevin Hayes, signed out of Boston College.
Moore signed with the Rangers in July, 2014 and had six goals and 18 points in the regular season while helping lead the penalty-kill.
"This year I know from having talked to him and seen him, and the off-ice test results, that he's in a different place, physically and mentally," Vigneault said. "Maybe he's ready to assume a bigger role; I know that's what he'd like."
Stepan has not missed a regular-season game since 2010-11. If necessary, the team could place him on Long-Term Injured Reserve and use his $3.075 salary cap charge on another player. But he then would be ineligible for a minimum of 10 games.