Is Rick Nash ailing?
Per Rangers head coach John Tortorella, the answer is “none of your business.”
Prior to Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the Capitals, Tortorella refused to answer questions about Nash’s health, saying, “I’m not discussing injuries.” Following the warmup in which all players participated, Nash played and Chris Kreider was scratched.
The top line left wing was checked from behind by Boston’s Milan Lucic in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win last Tuesday. He played 24:59 in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders.
“He’s banged up. We’ll see how he is in warmup and see if he’s going to play,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to talk about injuries at all this year, so there’s no sense in asking about that stuff.”
Nash did not practice Saturday, leading to the team calling up Kreider from AHL Connecticut one day after being sent down. Kreider played in the Whale’s 4-1 win over the Portland Pirates Friday night.
Before the call-up, Tortorella was emphatic that it was imperative for Kreider’s development that he play as much as possible. He had been averaging 10:17 of ice time in seven games with the Rangers this season.
“We asked them [if there was anyone ready for a call-up],” Tortorella said. “That’s who they told me.”
Nash entered the game with 11 points (three goals and eight assists), tied with Marian Gaborik for the team lead in that category. He is averaging 21:08 of ice time a game, including 48:26 on the power play.
Penalty kill working well
Special teams haven’t been all bad for the Rangers.
The Rangers penalty-killing units entered the game 11th in the league with an 83 percent success rate, and had killed the last 12 power plays against.
“I think [we’re] a bit more aggressive, more consistently,” Tortorella said. “I tried to keep the [penalty-killing] pairs together, especially upfront just to get some sort of familiarity and I think it’s helped.”
He acknowledged the importance of the man-down units against Washington. In their last six games, the Capitals had scored eight power play goals on 15 opportunities. The hot streak has seen Washington rise to fourth in the league on the power play with a 27.1 percent success rate.
“That’s a pretty good power play tonight, too,” Tortorella said.
First look at Caps
The first of three meetings between the former Patrick Division rivals marked the initial glimpse of the Adam Oates-led Capitals.
Washington hired Oates in June to be the franchise’s 16th head coach after Dale Hunter resigned following the playoffs. Oates had been an assistant coach with the Devils the last two seasons and served in the same capacity with the Lightning in 2009-10.
When he replaced Bruce Boudreau, Hunter applied a defense-first style. Oates is attempting to implement an offensive style to take advantage of the talents of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom.
“I have no idea about Washington,” Tortorella said. “No idea. I have no idea. I don’t care about Washington. I care about our club.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.