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Sore Back Could Sideline Nash & Open Door For Etem

by Jim Cerny / New York Rangers

Rick Nash's status for Friday night's game in Colorado against the Avalanche is now in question after No. 61 had to leave practice early Thursday when he twisted his back during a shooting drill and it subsequently tightened up on him.

"I felt good there for the first three drills then it twisted kind of the wrong way when I took a shot and it kind of went out on me," explained Nash outside the team's dressing room at the University of Denver where the team practiced.

Nash added that he "just couldn't move" and underwent treatment the remainder of practice while his teammates remained out on the ice. Head coach Alain Vigneault said that Nash is now considered "day to day".

"We'll see how I feel in the morning," stated Nash. "We need to go back and do more treatment, hopefully get it moving and loosened up."

Nash and Vigneault both said this injury seems similar to one that sidelined Nash for three days a couple of years ago. So far this season Nash, who led the team with a career-high 42 goals and who totaled a team-best 69 points a year ago, has scored just one goal and added five assists while playing in all 12 games. He had a season-high three-point (all assists) effort last Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If Nash is unable to play against the Avalanche, 23 year-old Emerson Etem would replace him in the lineup and, likely, on the team's top line alongside Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Etem slid into Nash's spot the rest of practice Thursday after Nash left the ice.

"In Junior (Etem) was a real skilled offensive player...and probably when he came into the league he was pegged to be more of an offensive player," offered Vigneault. "So hen you want a player to succeed you have to put them in roles where they can succeed; and (a top six role) might be a better-suited place for him."

Etem has appeared in only three games this season, skating on the team's fourth line, and has one assist. He had just five goals and ten points in 45 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season, and seven goals and 11 points in 29 games two years ago.

As Vigneault referred to, Etem had seasons of 61, 45, and 37 goals while playing in the Western Hockey League, leading him to be a first round pick and top prospect with the Ducks before being traded to New York this past June.

"You don't want to see a guy go down, especially one with the all-around capability of Rick Nash," Etem told after practice. "I felt good on the line with Brass and Zucc there; and whatever the case is I continue to prepare myself as if I am going to play the next game."

If Etem does play Friday, and should he land in a top-six role, the California native said no one should expect that his game will drastically change.

"I don't think my game really changes, whether I'm on a top line or whether I'm a bottom six guy," explained Etem. "Of course I want to contribute offense, but first and foremost I want to be on the right side of the puck, get in on the forecheck, play north-south, and be smart defensively."

Prior to Nash's departure Etem was rotating in as one of four forwards on the fourth line, along with Dominic Moore, Jarret Stoll and Jesper Fast on Thursday.

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