Just over five months after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23rd, the five-time all-star took the ice on Monday with his new teammates at the Rangers’ training center in Tarrytown, New York. Although it was only an informal skate, Nash was thrilled to finally skate in a Rangers sweater.
“We’re talking about waiting four months to finally get a chance to play for New York,” Nash enthused after Monday’s skate. “I’m excited.”
Coaches and players alike are anxious to see how Nash fits in with the rest of his teammates. “He wants to be in this type of situation,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Nash. “So as anxious as he is, I am double that to get with him and get going.”
Nash was one of the few Blueshirts who played in Europe during the 113-day lockout. The 28-year-old scored 12 goals and tallied 18 points in 17 games with the Swiss club HC Davos, but dealt with shoulder, back, and groin issues during his stint in Switzerland.
Entering training camp, Nash declared that is 100% healthy. With the regular season right around the corner, it is critical that Nash and his teammates (particularly linemates) develop chemistry in the interim.
“It’s not going to be much time at all to get ready for games,” Nash said. “It’s so important right now what everyone has done the past few weeks to be ready for the start of the season.”
One player who likely will be playing with Nash is alternate captain Brad Richards. The hulking winger and the playmaking center complement each other, and the belief is that Tortorella will use the duo on the top line to start the campaign.
“Even though we added Rick, we can’t rest on that,” Richards stated. “He wouldn’t want us to do that either. He wants to join a team that’s firing on all cylinders.”
Unlike in Columbus, where Nash was “the guy” on and off the ice, he is one of many talented players on Broadway. And while that reality takes some of the pressure off of him, his presence also lightens the load on others, especially Richards and Slovakian sniper Marian Gaborik.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Nash said with a smile, “but I’m just looking to jump in and help. (We) already have a great team, a great organization…and I’m going to do whatever I can and whatever they need to help them out.”
What the Rangers need is for Nash to be the offensive force that he was in Columbus. Last season, the Blueshirts won 51 games during the regular season and finished atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
Despite the regular season success, questions about the team’s offensive prowess remained. 2009 first round draft pick Chris Kreider was thrown right into the mix after completing his junior season at Boston College, and ultimately tied for third on the squad with five goals in the playoffs.
With the exception of the first game of the playoffs against the Senators, the Rangers were unable to muster more than three goals in any contest. After winning back-to-back seven-game series in the first two rounds, the Rangers were eliminated by its Hudson River rival, the New Jersey Devils, in six games.
But, that’s the past. Nash is now a Blueshirt, and with the core of the team still in tact, the expectations are high for the
How can you not be excited?