Rangers center is Stepan up his game

Rangers center Derek Stepan is beginning to live up to the expectations.

Rangers center Derek Stepan is beginning to live up to the expectations brought on by his contract.

Stepan, who staged a preseason holdout and eventually received a two-year, $6.15 million contract, has come alive in the 11 games since the Winter Olympics, scoring three goals and dishing out nine assists.

Stepan’s current pace is what the team was expecting of him after recording 18 goals and 26 assists in the 48 games of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Before the Olympic break, Stepan had recorded just 10 goals and 25 assists in 59 games this season.

Although the 23-year-old played in just one game for Team USA in Sochi, it is possible that simply being selected gave him a boost in confidence, which he has translated into strong play back in the NHL. He now leads the Rangers in assists (34) and is tied with Mats Zuccarello for the team lead in points (47).

Stepan continues to be an instrumental part of the Rangers’ 12th-ranked power play. He is second among the team’s centers in power play ice time with 2:42 per game, trailing only Brad Richards. His 12 power play assists rank second on the team, also behind Richards’ 14.

Stepan will need to keep up his excellent play of late as the Rangers gear up for the final 12 games of their regular season with a playoff berth in mind.