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Rangers' Nash feels better, ready to go in Game 1

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Rick Nash will be in the lineup Thursday after missing practice Wednesday because of the flu.

The Rangers open the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, ROOT).

"I am better," Nash said after taking part in New York's full morning skate. "It was a rough couple of hours. I feel good. I felt pretty strong out there, better than I thought [I would]."

Nash, who led the Rangers in the regular season with 42 goals, including four in four games against the Penguins, practiced Tuesday but said he went home after and didn't feel right.

He was laid up for most of the day Wednesday.

"I just caught some 24-hour bug, some sort of flu," Nash said. "I couldn't keep anything down. You don't know how long those things are going to last, especially with all the medical scares that went around this year. You just don't know, but [Wednesday] night I started to turn a corner and I felt better [Thursday]."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he never was concerned about Nash's availability for Game 1.

"Our staff felt that with the fluids he took in [Wednesday] that he'd be fine [Thursday], and he was," Vigneault said.

Nash also missed the last two games of the regular season because of an undisclosed injury. He hasn't played since April 7.

"It's kind of a happy medium of feeling refreshed, but sometimes you lose your speed a bit and lose your timing," Nash said. "We'll see how it goes [Thursday] and judge from there."

Nash's line, which includes center Derick Brassard and right wing Mats Zuccarello, hasn't been together since April 6. Zuccarello missed games April 7 and April 9 but returned for the regular-season finale April 11.

Brassard said he doesn't think it will take too long for the line to re-establish its chemistry.

Nash's 42 goals were a career-high. Brassard finished the regular season with a career-high 60 points, including 41 assists. Zuccarello had 15 goals and 49 points.

"I think all the players that play a lot of minutes, when you get that chance to have some time off like that I think it's going to be a big plus for [Nash] and for our team," Brassard said. "It's been a long season. We played a lot of games last year. We had a short summer and I think those two games are probably good for him."

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Daniel Winnik - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - David Perron

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Blake Comeau

Paul Martin - Ben Lovejoy

Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole

Taylor Chorney - Brian Dumoulin

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Scott Harrington, Craig Adams, Scott Wilson

Injured: Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body)

RANGERS

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: James Sheppard, Chris Summers

Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)

Status report: Vigneault said Klein skated on his own Thursday but still is considered day-to-day. Klein missed the final 16 games of the regular season because of a broken left arm. … Staal, who missed the final two games of the regular season because of an undisclosed injury, said he is healthy and will be in the lineup.

Who's hot: Hayes closed the regular season with two goals and six points in the final four games. He was the Rangers' leading scorer after the All-Star break with 29 points. … St. Louis had one goal and five points in the final five games of the regular season. … Moore had four goals and six points in the final six games of the regular season.

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