Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault’s response to whether his team would need to trade for offensive help if Rick Nash remains out was candid.
“I think we need to get the pieces that we have here to play better,” Vigneault said after the optional skate and team meetings Wednesday morning at The Garden. “I talked about, after the last game [a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Nov. 4], that we need more from our back end. We need those guys to contribute more.”
Trade speculation was fueled Monday when the Edmonton Oilers contingent of President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, general manager Craig MacTavish and consultant Mark Messier were in the Garden press box.
At a base level, the speculation is understandable as Edmonton has a wealth of riches upfront and desperately needs to bolster its defense. The Oilers have allowed a league-worst 61 goals. Still, it should be noted Lowe is part of Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey management team for the 2014 Olympics
The 26 goals the Rangers have scored are tied with New Jersey for second-fewest in the league. Only Philadelphia (22) has scored fewer goals.
Of the 26 goals the Rangers have scored, five have come from the defensemen. Ryan McDonagh leads the defensive corps with two goals. Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal and John Moore have one goal apiece.
“Right now our back end, five-on-five after 10 games — we break it down after 10 games — we were 16th out of 16th in our conference as far as point production,” Vigneault said. “We’re in the middle of the pack as far as getting shots through, getting shots on net. So our forwards need to do a better job of screening the goaltenders or getting to loose pucks. That’s how as a group we can generate better offense and score more goals.”
A Rangers spokesperson said Wednesday there was no update on the condition of Nash. There had been a report from Sportsnet in Canada Tuesday which said Nash had been skating at the Rangers practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y.
Nash hasn’t played since the 9-2 loss on Oct. 8 when it is believed he suffered a concussion after an illegal check to head from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart.
Seeing old friends
The Rangers visit their new Metropolitan Division rival, and frequent trade partner, the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time Thursday night.
Columbus has a number of ex-Rangers on the roster, including Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik. Derek Stepan, for one, expects the often-loquacious Dubinsky to engage his former teammates in conversation throughout the course of the game Thursday.
“I never played against Dubi. I played with him and he certainly did it when I played with him,” Stepan said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.