For Rick Nash and the Rangers, the waiting is just about over. Nash and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault both confirmed Tuesday morning that the star forward will play this evening when the Blueshirts host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden. It will mark Nash's first game action since suffering a head injury on October 7th in the season's third game against the San Jose Sharks.
"I'm excited, kind of a controlled emotion," Nash told reporters after the team's morning skate. "It's been a long six weeks, so I'm excited to get in there."
Nash, who has been symptom-free for roughly two weeks and had been practicing with his teammates since last week, was medically cleared to play on Sunday. Vigneault spoke on the phone with Nash during yesterday's day off to gauge how he was feeling, and then left it up to the two-time 40-goal scorer this morning as to whether or not he could play. Nash provided the necessary thumbs up this morning, and skated on a line with Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin during the skate.
"The first everything is going to take a while, whether it's a hit, a shot, a pass, making different plays," Nash said of what he expects from himself this evening. "It was a long time off, so it's going to take some time."
Added Vigneault, "He's going to play a regular shift, and he's going to play some power lay time. I'd like to keep him tonight in that 15-minute range. He hasn't played in quite some time, so for him it's almost like going through training camp again. He's looked extremely good in practice, and he wants to play, so that's what we're going to do."
Nash, who has three assists in three games played this season, led the Rangers with 21 goals in 44 games a year ago. He has scored 20 or more goals in nine consecutive seasons, and has bettered 30 seven times in his NHL career.
Because of the injury taking place during the long season-opening road trip, Nash will be playing his first game at The Garden since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against these very same Bruins--a game that ended on Nash's sweet pass to Chris Kreider for an overtime goal last May 23rd.
"It seems like it's been a while since I got a home game in me, so it'll be fun, it'll be exciting," said Nash. "It's tough watching when your team is playing well and the fans are excited and there's a buzz in the town. So it's going to be nice to be back in there tonight."