NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Rick Nash appeared calm and reflective on the day of his first game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team he starred with for the first nine seasons of his NHL career.
Nash hinted there were certain things he may have done differently in his final days with the Blue Jackets before being traded to New York.
"I think it could have been a bit smoother of … I guess you can call it an exit. I thought everyone was honest, everyone was in the same boat. At the end of the day, when someone asks to move on for their career, you have to assume it's going to get messy," Nash said following New York's optional skate Thursday. "The only thing that kept me going was the fans stayed behind me. They understood my decision, my situation. I honor that with the fans, that they understood."
The Blue Jackets' franchise leader in goals, assists, points and shots, Nash missed time with a concussion that kept him from making the trip to Columbus for New York's 4-2 win on Nov. 7. As much as he would have loved to make the trip to his old home, he's looking forward to meeting his former team for the first time.
"A lot of emotions. Seeing a lot of familiar faces around the rink this morning has been good," Nash said. "It would have been fun to go [to Columbus]. Now that we're in the same division, I'm sure that over the next few years we're going to have a lot of chances to do that. It was unfortunate that I didn't get to go."
The first franchise player in Blue Jackets history, Nash enjoyed great individual success with the team but was unable to win a single Stanley Cup Playoff game and only qualified for the postseason once, in 2008-09.
Following a 2011-12 campaign in which Columbus posted the worst record in the NHL, and he suffered through his worst statistical season in five years, Nash requested a change of scenery. He got it that summer when he was traded with Steve Delisle and a conditional draft pick for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round pick.
As members of the refashioned Metropolitan Division this season, both the Rangers and Blue Jackets have struggled at times. But despite his difficult last days in Columbus, Nash says he has no regrets.
"For me, I was happy to become a Ranger. It was a dream of mine to play for an Original Six [team] and to live in New York City," Nash said. "For me it was all positive."