For the Rangers on Saturday there was a major dose of positive news, and some sobering bad news to contend with. Rick Nash, who has missed the last 13 games with a head injury, took to the ice prior to the full team practice and skated and shot pucks at goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot, a decidedly positive step forward in his hopeful return from the injury. Then following practice head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Taylor Pyatt, who did not skate Saturday, was "concussed" and there was no further update on his condition.
Both Nash and Pyatt were victimized by penalized elbows to the head during game action. Nash was nailed by San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart on October 8th during the first period---and Stuart was later suspended by the league---and Pyatt was hit in the head by Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin during Thursday night's 4-2 Rangers victory. While Nash skated several more shifts after first receiving the blow to the head before being removed permanently from the Sharks game, Pyatt went directly off the ice and did not return after his injury against the Blue Jackets.
Nash, who has done some light skating on his own, joined a few teammates on the ice Saturday after stringing together "three or four good days" without any headaches.
"It's getting better," Nash told reporters. "It's good to be back and be around the guys. There definitely have been good days and bad days the last four weeks. I'd take a couple steps forward and then a step back, but I've strung together a good three or four days and it's been all positive since then."
The headaches have been Nash's major obstacle since suffering the injury, and he also pointed out that his body feels "like it's been four weeks and three days" behind in its conditioning. Still his presence in the locker room, around his teammates at the MSG Training Center, and on the ice before practice is a real positive step forward.
"That's the main thing, you are just happy to see him do better," Lundqvist said of Nash. "Second of all you're happy to see him out there shooting pucks, but you don't want to push him to get back too fast. We want him to make sure he takes his time to feel really good about himself, mentally and physically, before he starts playing again. But it's definitely a great sign to see him here."
Added Vigneault, "To see him on the ice, skating, and feeling good, is a real positive sign for us."
Nash said that he had spoken with other players from around the league who had also suffered head injuries during their careers, but he noted that every injury is different, and certain treatments that work for one player may not work for another. Nash also noted that his head injury of a year ago, when he missed four games following a Milan Lucic hit, was different from this season, as he has already been sidelined a month.
"Last year it was pretty quick, I missed only four games and was right back, and this year the symptoms just held on and it seemed like I couldn't shake them for a while," noted Nash, who has three assists in three games played so far this season. "When you are dealing with the brain you always want to be careful."
Neither Nash nor the team would commit to any timetable regarding the star forward's return to full practice or game action. Nash said he wanted to keep "inching forward" and make progress each day as his main goal.
As for Pyatt, the team also did not have a timetable regarding his injury. Vigneault flatly said Pyatt was "concussed" on the hit by Tyutin, but could offer nothing further.
Brandon Mashinter, a healthy scratch the past two games, took Pyatt's spot at practice on Saturday and presumably will play against the Florida Panthers on Sunday at The Garden, as long as no other forward is recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Pyatt joins Nash and Dominic Moore on the sidelines with Moore (strained oblique) set to miss his sixth straight game on Sunday, as well.