At a glance: The New York Rangers return home -- well close enough, anyway -- following an inspired 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, a victory that allowed them to reclaim the third spot in the Metropolitan Division standings. Rick Nash was held off the score sheet but the former Blue Jacket played perhaps his best game as a Ranger in his emotional return to Columbus. Nash had seven shots on goal and nine penalty minutes in a fiery performance against his old club. Can he carry that over to Saturday’s action against the New Jersey Devils? The Devils are barely hanging on to their playoff hopes, but they never fail to relish an opportunity to knock off their Hudson River rivals.
New-look Nash: So what was so memorable about Nash’s play Friday night? The star winger, who has been criticized during stretches this season for being too passive, was nothing of the sort in his first trip back to Nationwide Arena. Booed by Blue Jackets fans for the duration of the game, Nash played with both passion and purpose. He attacked the net hard, drove to the dirty areas of the ice, and wasn’t afraid to get his mitts scuffed. After jabbing with Sergei Bobrovsky for much of the game, Nash delivered a robust cross-check to the goaltender’s throat. Later in the game, he dropped the gloves against Columbus’ Matt Calvert, winning the fight in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. His teammates loved it. Sparked by Nash’s display, the Rangers rallied back from a 1-0 deficit to win a huge game against one of their primary divisional foes.
Scoreboard-watching: The victory allowed the Blueshirts to climb out of the last wild card spot and back among the top three in the Metro, but they’ll have to fight to retain the spot with other teams clawing and scratching their way from behind. Heading into Saturday’s action, the Rangers led Columbus by two points (though the Blue Jackets have a game in hand) and both Detroit and Washington by three, though the latter two both play Saturday night as well. Meanwhile, the Rangers have a chance to pass the Philadelphia Flyers, who are looking to extend a four-game winning streak against the league-leading St. Louis Blues on Saturday, with a win against the Devils. The Devils aren’t out of the playoff race, either, and they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. New Jersey trails Columbus for the last wild card spot by only five points. The team is coming off their own emotional win, a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory, in Zach Parise's much anticipated return to New Jersey on Thursday.
Blue debut: With the loss of defenseman John Moore Friday night -- Moore did not play during the third period after being shaken up earlier in the game on a hit by Blake Comeau -- trade-deadline acquisition Raphael Diaz will play in his first game as a Ranger. The 28-year-old was acquired from Vancouver more than two weeks ago and has yet to make his Blueshirts debut. According to Alain Vigneault, Diaz will be paired with Kevin Klein and will be forced to play on the left side, which is not his natural position. In additional lineup changes, Daniel Carcillo will draw in with Derek Dorsett sitting this one out because of a stomach flu. Vigneault also said two other players would be game-time decisions as they are hampered by some "bumps and bruises."