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Thursday, December 12, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Blue Jackets

By Katie Strang


At a glance: Thursday marks the first meeting between Rick Nash and his old team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, since the star winger was traded to New York two summers ago, but he’s not too concerned about a reunion with his former club. That’s because the Rangers have dropped three straight, an ugly stretch that has the Rangers struggling for points in a critical nine-game homestand. Meanwhile, Columbus has collected wins in three of its past four games.

On the other side: After spending nine seasons with Columbus, Nash is settling into his role as one of the top producers of a Rangers squad struggling for offense. The dynamic forward, who scored the Rangers’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Nashville on Tuesday, has six goals this season despite missing almost six weeks with a concussion suffered in October.

Big losses: The Rangers will be without both captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Marc Staal on Thursday. While Staal sustained a concussion over the weekend in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey, Callahan left Tuesday’s loss with what has since been announced as a Grade 2 MCL knee sprain. Though Staal’s timetable for return is unclear, Callahan is expected to miss four to six weeks. UPDATE: Derick Brassard will also miss Thursday's game with a "sore posterior," according to coach Alain Vigneault.

Recent recalls: The Rangers have lacked grit during their three-game slide, and to address that need they recalled two players recently who should add some sandpaper to the lineup. Veteran forward Arron Asham patrolled the fourth line in his first game back Tuesday night, and the team summoned defensive prospect Dylan McIlrath from the minors Wednesday afternoon. The 21-year-old McIlrath, a former first-round pick (10th overall, 2010), adds some size and physicality on the team’s back end in Staal’s absence. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native will be making his NHL debut.