NEW YORK -- A short video montage was shown on the JumboTron at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, with a quick flash of winger Rick Nash smiling at the cameras, then in action on the ice.
As Nash approaches the one-month mark of sitting out with a concussion, that brief, five-second sequence is the most we’ve seen of the injured winger in recent weeks.
The Rangers, of course, play in Columbus on Thursday night for the first time since the blockbuster deal that brought Nash to New York in the summer of 2012. It was supposed to be a momentous night for the former first overall pick, who spent nine seasons in Columbus.
Instead, his absence will hang heavy as concern grows about the 29-year-old’s health.
“It would have been nice for Rick to be there for the first time,” said Derick Brassard, who also came east in a trade to New York from Columbus, less than a year after Nash, at the deadline in 2013. “It would have been nice for the fans in Columbus to see him again. I just hope he’s going to be healthy real soon. The team needs him -- he’s our best offensive player -- so yeah, it’s pretty disappointing that he’s not going to be able to make that trip.”
Since sustaining the head injury on an elbow from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart on Oct. 8, Nash has rarely been seen around the team, although a source informed ESPNNewYork.com that he has performed intermittent physical activity at the Rangers' training center in Westchester and “continues to do so.”
But any question of a potential return is met with the Rangers’ constant refrain with regard to their $7.8 million dollar man: “Nothing new.”
Nash was dispatched to see Michigan-based concussion specialist Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, a source told both ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun and ESPNNewYork.com’s Katie Strang, but that visit was not recent. The Rangers have sent a few of their other players to see Kutcher previously -- he is the team’s preferred neurologist -- so it’s hard to discern what that meeting bodes for Nash’s condition.
Until Nash begins skating with the team, it’s difficult to speculate exactly how long he will be out. Will he even be available to play the next time the Rangers visit Nationwide Arena, on March 21?
The problem with trying to understand concussions, or deduce a reasonable timeline, is that rarely are two alike.
Nash suffered a concussion last season as well, and although the hit he sustained from Milan Lucic was similar to the one that knocked him from play this time around, the recovery times have not been similar.
No one knows about the murky, nebulous nature of head injuries better than Sidney Crosby, who battled two concussions that limited the superstar to a mere eight games in a matter of 14 months from 2011 to 2012.
He reached out to Nash, with whom he's played for Team Canada, to lend a sympathetic ear.
“It’s tough to see when guys are going through something like that,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, he’s improving.”
Like Nash, Crosby went to see Kutcher, who, he found through the NHLPA as “someone who was recommended pretty highly.”
“There’s different ways of diagnosing what your main problem is or what seem to be your main symptoms," Crosby said before the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-1 loss to the Rangers. "You don’t want to get too many opinions sometimes, but you definitely want to try to understand what kind of seems to fit your diagnosis and what people seem to think as far as how to recover and the best ways to do that.”
The Rangers and Nash are likely trying to sort that out now. Where his recovery goes from here, and how long it will take, remain to be seen.