GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- In what may have originally been heralded as an emotional game between Rick Nash and his former Columbus Blue Jackets club, the Rangers are focused less on reunion and more on righting the ship.
True, Thursday will be the first time the star winger squares off against his old team since he was traded to New York in a blockbuster deal two summers ago, but the dramatic storyline has to take a backseat given the Rangers’ current state of affairs.
“I think it’s overshadowed by what we’re worried about right now,” Nash told reporters after practice Wednesday. “We’re worried about winning games and getting two points and kind of ending this losing streak.”
Nash is referring to the team’s current three-game slide that included a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Three games into a critical nine-game homestand and the Blueshirts have nabbed only one of six points available.
The team has been hammered with injuries in the past week.
Marc Staal left Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss with what the team has since confirmed to be a concussion. Without one of their top defensemen, the team then lost captain Ryan Callahan when the 28-year-old forward left Tuesday’s game in the first period with a Grade 2 knee sprain.
Though Staal’s timetable remains unclear, Callahan is expected to miss four to six weeks.
All of a sudden, things are starting to feel more and more like the beginning of the season, when an atrocious nine-game road trip to start the season snowballed and left the club flailing for traction in the standings.
“The hockey gods are testing us,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “Testing our will and determination is fair to say. There’s no question we have that determination.”
Indeed, for as much as coach Alain Vigneault has blasted his team in recent weeks, practically begging the club to show some signs of life and fight, he said Wednesday the club’s work ethic has not disappointed.
Unfortunately, that has not translated on game days.
“Injuries, combined with our record [15-16-1] I think will tell us a lot about our group in how we respond,” Vigneault said. “I’ve been in this game a long time. As far as work ethic, in practices, off-ice work, this group works as hard as any group I’ve been associated with. [It] hasn’t translated to what I expect on the ice as far as performance and results, but I believe that the work ethic and everything that’s under their control, that hopefully the results are going to change.”
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Center Derick Brassard did not take part in Wednesday’s practice. The former Blue Jacket has a “sore posterior,” according to Vigneault, and should be fine to play Thursday against his old club.