NEW YORK -- The fallout from Brandon Prust's hit on Derek Stepan in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals continues, as New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed Friday that Stepan suffered a broken jaw on the play.
Stepan will undergo surgery Friday night, leaving his status for Game 4 on Sunday and the remainder of the series against the Montreal Canadiens unknown.
He left the game after being rocked by a crushing, open-ice hit in the first period from his former teammate, a play that went unpenalized but earned Prust a hearing with the league's player safety department Friday afternoon.
Vigneault continued to seethe about the non-call Friday and lamented the officiating when discussing Stepan's injury and the incident that ensued, which resulted in a 10-game suspension for Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo was tossed from the game for elbowing linesman Steve Driscoll, who was trying to separate Carcillo from post-whistle action involving Prust.
Carcillo was automatically suspended by the league Friday under Rule 40.3 pertaining to physical abuse of an official.
"Yesterday there was an incident where Prust hit Stepan. That incident, obviously, four referees missed the call. Stepan is injured," Vigneault said. "Same player that called [Chris Kreider's] hit on [Habs goaltender Carey Price] an 'accidental but on-purpose' late hit, everything you want to get out of the game, that was his hit on Stepan.
"What saddens me about that hit is if the call is made on the ice, we're on a five-minute power play, and what happened to Dan Carcillo -- what he did was inexcusable and he's going to pay a big price for it -- if the call is made on the ice, he's not put in that position."
Stepan returned to the game later in the first period and blasted Prust following the team's 3-2 overtime loss.
So, how exactly did he return to the ice after breaking his jaw?
According to the team, Stepan underwent X-rays after he left the ice after the hit and they came back negative. He was subsequently cleared to play, but the team sent him to a specialist Friday morning, where a more detailed scan revealed the fracture.
Vigneault would not say whether he expects Stepan to return in this series.
"We'll have an idea of the time frame [Saturday]," Vigneault said.
If Stepan cannot play, the Rangers could be without their two top centers. Though Vigneault again characterized 26-year-old pivot Derick Brassard as "day-to-day," he has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury sustained on a hit from Montreal's Mike Weaver in Game 1.
The Rangers also will be without Carcillo after his actions. Minutes after Stepan left the game, Carcillo was whistled for a minor charging penalty on Prust. With Prust and Derek Dorsett dropping the gloves nearby, Driscoll skated over to Carcillo and grabbed his stick in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent Carcillo from joining the fray. Carcillo resisted and struck Driscoll with his right elbow, prompting his immediate ejection from the game.
Meanwhile, Prust has a hearing with the league's disciplinary arm Friday afternoon, and the general expectation is that a suspension is looming.Prust's teammates and coach defended him on the hit and said he was not looking to injure Stepan.
"Brandon Prust, he was trying to finish his check," Habs coach Michel Therrien said from the team hotel in midtown Manhattan on Friday. "His intention, honestly, was not to injure Stepan."
Prust's teammate, David Desharnais said the hit changed the complexion of the game, firing up the Montreal bench after the play.
"Prusty wanted to go out there and set the tone. I thought it was a pretty good hit," Desharnais said. "It's too bad that this guy is gonna have surgery or whatever, you never wanna see that, but I thought it was a good hit."
Maybe it was because Vigneault brought it up unprompted earlier in the day, but Therrien also revisited the incident between Kreider and Price -- a play that he called "reckless" and ultimately resulted in Price's series-ending injury.
"You know what? If there is a team that can understand the loss of a player, it's us. We lost Carey Price in the first game of the series with the hit, when Kreider hit Carey Price," Therrien said.