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Nash says time for Rangers to win Stanley Cup is now

by Jon Lane

NEW YORK -- The time for the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup is right now, and forward Rick Nash knows it.

"I feel like an organization like the Rangers has pressure to win a championship every single year," Nash said Thursday during an appearance at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store to celebrate the release of the first-ever Playmobil NHL figures and playsets. "I think [coach Alain Vigneault] is right when he says failure is not an option. We've been close, and in this business close isn't good enough. We have to be able to get the job done.

"I think our window is right now."

Nash echoed his coach, who said at the start of training camp that failure wasn't an option after New York lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, then won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best regular-season team in 2014-15 but lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Nash and the Rangers begin the quest for their first Cup since 1994 on Oct. 7 at the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

The pieces are in place for the Rangers to win that elusive championship. Center Derek Stepan, 25, is back after agreeing to a six-year contract on July 27. Top-six forwards Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello each are 28 and with Nash are signed through at least 2017-18. Forward Chris Kreider, 24, is projected to build on his 21-goal performance last season, and the Rangers hope forward J.T. Miller, 22, will take the next step in his development.

"We have a good chance," Nash said. "We have our core group together. We have a lot of guys who have been here a long time and have done some really good things."

The Rangers overcame a lot of hurdles to advance as far as Game 7 of the conference final last spring. They were without Zuccarello, Nash's linemate, after he sustained a brain contusion and hairline fracture of his skull in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Defensemen Keith Yandle (sprained shoulder), Ryan McDonagh (broken foot), Marc Staal (hairline fracture in his left ankle) and Dan Girardi (sprained MCL) all played hurt before New York's Cup dreams ended with a 2-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers couldn't capitalize on any momentum generated by a 7-3 road victory in Game 6 in which Nash had a goal and three assists.

"We have to learn from losing," Nash said. "You have to lose before you can win. We have to learn from our mistakes. One thing is understanding momentum in a game, in a playoff series, in the playoffs in general. We won Game 6 in Tampa Bay, come home; [in] Game 7, we have to figure out how to use that momentum back home. Momentum swings are a huge part of the season and the playoffs."

Nash did everything he could to help the Rangers win the Presidents' Trophy and get within one victory of a return to the Stanley Cup Final. He had career-highs in goals (42) and plus-minus (plus-29), and led the League with 32 even-strength goals. Nash, who had struggled to score in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first two seasons with the Rangers, had five goals and 14 points in 19 postseason games; his 0.74 points per game was nearly double his output from a year earlier, when he had 10 points (three goals) in 25 games (0.40).

"I try to up my game every year," Nash said. "I always try to bring more in the playoffs. I had some success last year, but overall it just hasn't worked out to be what I wanted it to be. As much as it hurts, I want to win a championship and I'm trying to do everything I can to help the team win a championship. Sometimes it doesn't pan out the way you want it to be, but I think you lean a lot on your teammates, on your coaches, and you want them to believe in you. I know all of the Rangers organization does."

Nash, now 31, is in terrific shape as he begins the new season. He altered his training regimen entering his 30s following a meeting with Steve Yzerman, executive director of Canada's Olympic team, during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The crux of the conversation was the importance of training harder each summer to keep up with the younger players entering the League.

"I think the one thing I realized in the last probably three or four years was your body doesn't regroup like it used to as you get older," Nash said. "You see these young kids come in, and I used to be that young kid coming in. You're full of energy. Your body is healthy. You can basically do whatever you want to do on the ice. As you get older you have to work harder to keep your body at a high level."

Having Vigneault proclaim this season as Stanley Cup or bust means that the hardest part is yet to come for Nash and the Rangers.

"It's why we play, right? It's what we dream about as a kid," Nash said. "We're definitely trying everything we can do. Just to see clips from '94 when they won and how crazy the city went, that's what kind of keeps us motivated and how excited we are to do it for the city."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL

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