Stepan set to make season debut, will wear ‘A’ for Rangers

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The New York Rangers will welcome a familiar face back into the lineup on Saturday, although he’ll look a little different against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Derek Stepan is set to make his 2014-15 season debut, and he’ll do it with an alternate captain “A” on his sweater, according to the team’s official website.

The 24-year-old seems excited about being formally added to the team’s leadership group.

“Obviously it’s a tremendous honor,” Stepan said. “You look around this room and there’s a lot of guys that have been in this situation and worn an ‘A’, so to be part of a leadership core which I feel is very strong is really exciting. It’s really cool.”

Stepan missed the first 12 games of the Rangers’ season with a fractured fibula. The Rangers generated a 6-4-2 record in his absence.

Getting Stepan back should help the Rangers improve their depth and slide players into more comfortable positions. It’s unclear if he’ll assume his No. 1 center role right away – the team might ease him back into the mix – but one would expect Stepan to allow Derick Brassard to fall into a more comfortable situation on the second line (and so on).

Stepan’s scheduled to become an RFA if the Rangers don’t sign him during the regular season. He scored 17 goals and 57 points in 82 regular season games before producing 15 points in 24 postseason contests in 2013-14.