Rick Nash returns to practice, sidesteps injury questions

Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers

Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, February 10 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Rick Nash missed his fourth straight game last night, but the Rangers' injured power forward is a step closer to returning.

For the first time in nine days, Nash, who sidestepped a question on whether he suffered a concussion, was on the ice with almost the entire team for an optional morning skate at the Madison Square Garden Training Center, and afterward called it "a positive day, for sure."

Nash, who skated, passed and shot for more than 40 minutes and stayed on an extra five minutes to fire shots at Martin Biron from the faceoff circles, said of his undisclosed ailments: "It's a lot of different things . . . I've been banged up quite a bit, and obviously didn't feel like I could compete out there. I feel good; it's getting better . . . Definitely a good day."

On the concussion issue, he said, "I'm not a doctor, so it's tough for me to analyze that."

The Rangers' leading point-scorer going into last night, with three goals and nine assists, did not set a timeline for a return, but asked if it would be soon, he said, "I hope so."

Although he has skated on his own for about a week, Nash has not participated in a full-contact practice. The earliest that Nash could play would be Thursday at home against Tampa Bay.

It is widely believed that Nash was suffering from the effects of a concussion stemming from a hit by Boston's Milan Lucic on Feb. 12, but the team has not confirmed that.

The right wing, who was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer, said it was tough to watch the team struggle -- they have totaled six goals in the four games he has missed -- but that it was good to watch "young guys" get more minutes.

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