COMMENTARY | The New York Rangers lost left wing Rick Nash during a game against the San Jose Sharks back on Oct. 8 and things have not felt right since. Middling play from the rest of the roster has only added to the situation, but an issue of utmost importance is the health of one of the team's star forwards.
Nash has been sidelined since he took a hit from the Sharks' Brad Stuart, but the real kicker is no one knows the timetable for his return. The NHL's protocol for concussion testing has never been more stringent, so there's not going to be an issue in terms of rushing Nash back.
Nevertheless, hockey fanatics are left scratching their heads as to how the Rangers will cope with the loss of a premier player. One thing is clear, head coach Alain Vigneault is high on some of the in-house options.
Fellow LW Chris Kreider has made a noticeable difference for this team since being called up from his stint with the Hartford Wolfpack. After a lackluster showing during training camp, Kreider has tallied six points in seven games this season (two goals and four assists). He is not expected to replace Nash's contributions by himself, but he is a key component of the Rangers' plans for the foreseeable future.
Center J.T. Miller was tabbed to fill Nash's roster spot back in mid-October, so it stands to reason that he and some of the other forwards will be in the mix for some extra ice time too. The 20-year-old is a bit rough around the edges, but Miller brings plenty of energy to Vigneault's lineup. Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello will likely see some increased playing time too, but replacing Nash's contributions won't be easy.
No one anticipates an exact stand-in for Nash because he brings a number of intangibles to the ice when he suits up. Beyond the fact that he has been a 20-goal scorer in nine straight seasons, his skill set opens up the flow of the Rangers' offense. Nash demands so much attention from opposing defenses when he is healthy, but his absence has only exacerbated the club's struggles.
There are only a handful of players in the league that can dominate a game with their talent and Nash has proven himself time and time again in this regard. The team will certainly welcome Nash back whenever he's available, but it's going to be all hands on deck for the Blueshirts in the meanwhile.
Jack Freifelder lives in New York City and has been following the New York sports scene for the better part of two decades. He has written for a number of websites, including Three Bridge Sports, RPI Scoreboard and North by Northwestern.
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