Rick Nash will not be playing tonight when the Rangers face off with the New Jersey Devils in Newark, but he did make an on-ice appearance at the end of the team's morning skate at the Prudential Center.
After the Rangers had concluded their drills and gathered for a stretch at center ice, Nash gingerly skated on to the ice, taking a lap around the rink before doing some light turns and back and forth skating between the boards. He stickhandled with a puck a bit, as well, but was not seen shooting at either goalie.
Needless to say it was a positive step in the right direction for Nash who has been sidelined and off skates since suffering a bad bone bruise in his left leg eleven days ago in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Tonight's contest will be the third straight Nash has missed.
"We'll see how he reacts tomorrow and then I'll probably have a better idea here moving forward," head coach Alain Vigneault said when asked about Nash's recovery from the injury. "He's been getting treatments the last couple of days and he's coming along. He's still day to day, so we'll see how he reacts tomorrow and take it from there."
The Rangers have split the first two games since Nash's injury, losing up in Ottawa to the Senators 3-0 before beating the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 at MSG in the final game before the All Star break.
Nash is third on the team in scoring with 33 points and fourth in goals with 12.
Starting tonight the Rangers will face the Devils three times in the span of three weeks this month, with two of the contests to be played in New Jersey. Vigneault stated after the morning skate that it's good for his team to face the Devils right out of the break like they will this evening.
"This is a very important game for both teams," stated Vigneault. "Both teams want to get off here to a good start. Our games games against the Devils have always been very competitive and very hard-fought. They're playing well, so it'll be a good test for us tonight."
New Jersey is just four points behind the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference standings, though New York does have a game in hand, making tonight's tilt--and all three this month--extremely important.
"We have to be ready to play against a team that before the break was playing really good hockey," stated alternate captain Derek Stepan. "They've been playing really hard and playing at a really high level. We have to make sure we're ready to go right from the drop of the puck. We're in a playoff push at this point and they're right there behind us."
Veteran defenseman Dan Boyle is back in the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch last Monday when the Rangers defeated Buffalo. That means rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who scored a goal and was a +2 against the Sabres, will be scratched this evening.
"He looked a little bit tired prior to the All Star break," Vigneault said of Boyle. "It was definitely a sign to us that we need to monitor him a little bit better than we did in that first half. So that's what we are going to do. He had a good practice yesterday. He's playing today; and we'll take it from there."