News just keeps getting better for the New York Rangers. They have reached a .500 record after an awful start, and have won five out of their last six games. This weekend, their best and most important forward, Rick Nash, began skating again after a concussion sidelined him for over a month. Most importantly, he says he is symptom-free. General manager Glen Sather states that he will need to get his conditioning under his belt before returning to play. Still, Nash presumably could be ready to return by Thanksgiving. While this is wonderful news for the Rangers, it does not behoove them to rush him back into the lineup.
As the Rangers have turned their season around to forge their way into a playoff spot, they are developing an identity under head coach Alain Vigneault. As in recent years, they are relying on defense and goaltending to win games. So far, since the end of their nine-game road trip to begin the season, it has worked. They will not consistently outscore their opponents by three or more goals, but they will grind down their opponents. Also, for the first time in years, the Rangers demonstrate a propensity to score on the power play.
With all teams that lack lethal scoring touch, however, the Rangers will eventually need a scorer of Nash’s caliber, should they have any ambition of making a deep playoff run; the key word here is “eventually.” It is only mid-November, and the season has not reached the quarter-pole yet. As long as the Rangers continue to play consistently and climb their way up the standings with the grinding mentality that has served them so well in recent times, Nash can take his time getting better physically. When Nash feels that he is 100 percent ready for contact and is conditioned enough to play at an elite level, then it makes sense for him to return to the lineup.
A healthy Nash would be a dangerous proposition for opponents come playoff time, and a critical element to the Rangers’ chances. Right now, it is not imperative he be rushed back. Once he is fully healthy, whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas or the Olympic break, then will it be the right time to return to the Rangers.