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Monday, February 20, 2012
Rangers impressed with Nash's play

By Katie Strang

The Rangers got a good glimpse of what trade target Rick Nash can offer a team when they faced the 6-4, 216-pound Blue Jackets captain Sunday.

Fans at Madison Square Garden weren't too thrilled when the 27-year-old star forced the game into overtime with his game-tying goal late in the third, and they had no problem letting him know about it.

What did the Rangers think of his overall performance?

"He’s a big guy and his feet are always churning. He’s a lot like [Evgeni] Malkin," said top-pair defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was matched up against Nash for the most of Sunday's 3-2 win over Columbus along with defensive partner Dan Girardi. "He’s got the same kind of hands and he’s so fast in the way he moves with the puck. And definitely his shot, his quick release and how hard it is, those are some of the biggest things he’s got."

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who set up Derek Stepan's overtime game-winner Sunday, said Nash is the best of both worlds with his combination of size and skill.

"He can skate, he’s big and he can score. Those are the toughest guys to play against, guys that can move and that are tough to knick off the puck," Del Zotto. "He's a pretty dynamic player."

Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman played with Nash in Columbus for two seasons from 2009-11 and knows him better than most. He sees huge offensive potential for Nash and any team that may be able to land him at the deadline.

"He’s a skilled power forward; obviously, more toward the skilled side of it, but still, he’s a big body that comes with speed, and he finishes checks. He’s got a little bit of everything," Stralman said.

The 25-year-old blue-liner, who likened Nash to Red Wings star forward Pavel Datsyuk, said he thinks Nash could break out offensively given an opportunity to play with a top team.

Taken by the Blue Jackets first overall in the 2002 draft, Nash has spent his entire career inColumbus with little to show for it by way of post-season success. Nash has made only one playoff appearance, during the 2008-09 season when the Blue Jackets were swept in the first round by Detroit.

"He’s one of the best players in the league," Stralman said of Nash, who has posted four straight seasons of 32 goals or more. "He’s been a little bit alone over there [in Columbus] for the past ten years. If he was on any top team in the league, he’d have probably 80 to 100 points each year, whereas now he’s doing 60."

Stralman is aware of the speculation that surrounds his former teammate and, like many players on the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, is eager to see how it plays out.

"Bunch of rumors going around. That’s what happens when a team struggles for so long. They obviously tried to make changes this year and they didn’t pay off," Stralman said. "I wish him the best. He’s a great guy and a good player."