Rick Nash returns to the lineup Tuesday night against the rival Bruins. Credit: Getty Images
The Rangers were able to dress one of their cornerstone players Tuesday for the first time in 42 days.
Prior to Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Boston, Rick Nash announced he would play after missing a month due to concussion symptoms.
“Yes. Yes. [I’m] in tonight,” Nash said following the morning skate at the Garden. “It’s been a long six weeks so [I’m] excited to get in there.”
When he met with the media Tuesday morning, head coach Alain Vigneault announced Nash would receive about 15 minutes of ice time against the Bruins, which would consist of “a regular shift and, obviously, some power-play time.”
Skating on a line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, Nash finished with five shots on goal — he attempted 11 — in 17:55 of ice time.
“I felt OK. I felt a bit slow making plays—I had a couple chances when I could’ve passed it but I just had my head down,” Nash said after the game. “The first period, the first couple of shifts, it was tough. But I found [my game] and found some chances on offense.”
Nash missed 17 games with post-concussion symptoms after absorbing an elbow to head from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart in the Rangers’ 9-2 loss in San Jose on Oct. 8. The Rangers (10-10-0) compiled a 9-8-0 mark in the 17 games Nash missed.
Prior to the concussion, Nash had been playing well despite not having scored a goal. He had three assists and nine shots on goal in 39:01 of ice time spanning the first three games of the season.
Nash had been skating and working out for “the last 10 days to two weeks,” according to Vigneault, and the left wing was “medically cleared Sunday.” Both Nash and Vigneault, independent of the other, said they had a telephone conversation Monday in which the final determining factor on whether or not the wing would play was left up to No. 61.
Prior to the 3-2 loss to the Devils on Nov. 12, Vigneault announced Nash would begin to participate in practices with the team. Nash traveled with the team to Montreal for last Saturday night’s 1-0 win over the Canadiens.
“He had been working extremely hard ... and got physically tested on the ice — I want to say last Thursday — and his test scores came back better than [they were] at training camp,” Vigneault said. “That was very significant and positive for us. From there he had a couple other practices but he was cleared and he was in good shape.
“He’s been symptom-free and getting back at it now for anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. We went through the process. [He] feels real good, real fine and it’s time to play.”
Nevertheless, there is a decided difference between practices and game action, a fact Nash was cognizant of.
“The first everything is going to take awhile, whether it is a hit, a shot, a pass, making different plays,” Nash said. “[It was] a long time off, so it’s going to take [awhile].”
The Rangers acquired Nash in a blockbuster trade with the Blue Jackets on July 23, 2012. Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round draft pick were sent to Columbus in order to land the two-time 40 goal scorer.
Nash led the 2013 Rangers with 21 goals and his 42 points were second most on the team.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.