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Has Stepan Played Himself Out of the Olympics?

Goal scoring has been one of the biggest reasons for the Rangers struggles this season. And while the entire team seems to be infected by nogoalitis, the Rangers top guns have been the biggest culprits.

One of them being Derek Stepan, who was predicted to take off this year after tallying 44 points (18g, 26a) in just 48 games last season. Instead, Stepan's lack of offense (just 24 points (7g, 17a) in 40 games) is not only negatively impacting the Rangers in the standings, it's also hurting his chances of representing the United States in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia this February.

From Dan Rosen at NHL.com, who says Stepan's stock is down…

"The U.S. is thinnest at center, which gives Stepan an advantage to make the roster. However, he hasn't separated himself enough to be considered a lock. His possession numbers are decent, but he's been a minus player. He hasn't helped New York's struggling offense as he has only five points in the past 13 games. He's taken the most faceoffs of any American center (724), but he's won only 44.5 percent of them. The U.S. already has David Backes, Joe Pavelski and Ryan Kesler at center. Paul Stastny has played well of late and was a member of the Olympic team in 2010. Brandon Dubinsky has more points in fewer games than Stepan. He's also been better on faceoffs, albeit in fewer opportunities."

Larry Brooks at the New York Post feels that the spot was Stepan's to lose going into the season and he's on the verge of doing so. Brooks also indicates that Dubinsky, who could be seen as more versatile as he can also play on the wing, is Stepan's biggest competition for a roster spot.

Dubinsky has 25 points (7g, 18a), 54.5 f/o % in 33 games, while Stastny (Stepan's other biggest obstacle) has 24 points (11g, 13a), 53.9 f/o % in 36 games.

The Team USA roster will be announced after the Winter Classic tomorrow.

…how ironic would it be for Dubinsky, who struggled after his own holdout with the Rangers in 2009, to knock out Stepan? While it would still be amazing to see Callahan and McDonagh wearing the other read, white and blue, I'll definitely be bummed if Stepan is left home.

…i think ultimately GM Dave Poile and head coach Bylsma will look at Stepan's entire resume (including him captaining Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2010) and he'll make the team. However, I'm not convinced that once Team USA lines up against Russia on February 15th for their first game, that he'll be in the lineup. With Backes, Pavelski and Kesler all locks at center there is only one spot for Stepan and he'll likely have to beat out Stastny (seven points (3g, 4a) in his last seven games) for that final open center spot.

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Kevin

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