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Monday, February 25, 2013
Melrose: Without Nash, Rangers' O slows

By Matt Ehalt

As Barry Melrose watched the Rangers play the last three games without Rick Nash, the star forward who is on IR with an undisclosed injury, he kept having flashbacks.

"They're reverting to the team from last year that scored very little and relied on great goaltending and had to win 1-0 and 2-1 games," said Melrose, an NHL analyst for ESPN. "Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been as good this year as he was last year. And that's a tremendous amount of pressure on him."

The Rangers are 0-2-1 in the three games without Nash, and the signs point to him missing a fourth straight game when the Rangers host Winnipeg on Tuesday night. In those three games, the Rangers have scored a total of three goals, including a shutout loss to Montreal on Saturday.

With the Rangers outside of the playoff race entering Monday's games, the Blueshirts could use Nash back immediately. At the moment, though, there's no update on the forward. While it's believed he's still hurting from a hit on Feb. 12 against Boston, he played the next two games. There has been speculation it's a concussion.

As the time goes by, and no details come out about Nash, there is increased speculation Nash is dealing with something worse than what the Rangers had originally let on.

"Any time a team is so secretive you start wondering what's going on," Melrose said. "And Nash has been a pretty durable player. He's not a guy that gets hurt. Look at his past, he's pretty tough. Any time you get no updates and teams are so secretive, you wonder if it's not more than what people are saying."

While Melrose doesn't believe Nash has been the offensive star the Rangers have needed so far this season, he's undoubtedly been the team's most consistent offensive player. He has just three goals and nine assists, but has the anchor on the team's top line as other veterans have struggled.

"He's scored some beautiful goals and given them a taste of what he did in Columbus, but the people of New York have not seen Rick Nash do what he can do," Melrose said. "Hopefully he is back sooner rather than later and can be that offensive star and spur (Brad) Richards, (Marian) Gaborik, (Ryan) Callahan and all their offensive players, and make life easier for Henrik."

Even with Nash, the Rangers haven't played up to expectations this season, finding themselves at 8-7-2. Their slow start has perplexed the analyst.

"They haven't had a ton of injuries. Callahan being out hurt, but (Dan) Girardi didn't miss much, the defense has been pretty healthy, Lundqvist has been healthy," Melrose said. "It's quite surprising that the Rangers have had this much trouble. They're too good to fight for that final spot."