Rick Nash eager for fresh start with new coach Alain Vigneault
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rick Nash may never be totally comfortable in a media scrum. His right foot taps anxiously, and he's always ready for a quick exit when a team public relations man asks if the questions are over.
Nash, 29, a five-time All-Star who was acquired by the Rangers from Columbus in July 2012, eventually might become more at ease this season, his first full one in New York after the lockout-reduced campaign.
Nash is a little more settled in town, but on the ice, having a full training camp is the biggest difference. "Just to be able to jell with players, play exhibition games, it was tough with just a mini-camp," he said.
And Nash, like every other player, is anticipating a fresh start with former Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault and a staff that favors a quicker pace. "He's got an up-tempo style, but his teams are always sound defensively," said Nash, who has scored between 30 and 40 goals in the last five full seasons. "We haven't really gotten into systems yet, but it definitely seems like it'll be more offensive."
Vigneault has vivid recollections of when the 6-4 Nash skated against the Canucks.
"That was a guy who, one-on-one, was so hard to contain," he said. "If he ever got a half a step on you and you weren't in a situation where you could outnumber him defensively, he could take that puck right to the net. With his hands, a lot of times they were grade-A scoring chances; and a lot of times, they were in the back of the net."
Vigneault's memory is sharp: In 35 games against the Canucks, Nash had 14 goals and 14 assists.
Scott Arniel, a former Columbus coach who is Vigneault's assistant, has seen Nash's skill set daily, and believes that Nash was moved too often last year, including on the power play, and aims to find a set spot for him this season. Arniel has watched every Rangers power play from last season, when the Blueshirts finished 23rd in the league.
"I don't think they're that far away," Arniel said. "I noticed there was a lot of different looks with him [Nash], as there were with a lot of different players. We're going to try to get him in the best place possible and more than likely that's somewhere out in front . . . whether it's in that high slot or the front of the net. He's got one of the best quick releases in the game, he's a big man and he knows how to protect the puck. I know what he can do; I know some of the best places for him."
Nash, who scored just three goals with the man-advantage, thinks that strategy could help. "After not having so much success last year," he said, "I think we'd be willing to try anything."
Notes & quotes: C Derek Stepan, mired in a contract dispute, missed his fourth day of camp and won't be at Sunday's 11 a.m. scrimmage (which will be covered live by MSG), or play Monday against the Devils. "Any player, because of injury or contract issues or whatever, that doesn't start at the same time as his fellow teammates, he's got some catching up to do," said Vigneault . . . Captain Ryan Callahan, rehabbing from shoulder surgery, said there's only a "slim chance" he'll be ready by opening night, Oct. 3 in Phoenix.