Rick Nash's return imminent for Rangers

Rick Nash of the Rangers celebrates after scoring Rick Nash of the Rangers celebrates after scoring one of his two third-period goals against the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL game at Madison Square Garden. (March 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Tied with the Devils for 13th place in goals scored in the Eastern Conference with 42, the Rangers sorely need contributions from Rick Nash, who appears to be on the brink of returning.

Whether that will be tonight when the Rangers (10-10) host the Bruins was not official Monday, a scheduled day off when no players skated. Nash, who has missed 17 games after suffering a concussion on Oct. 8 in San Jose, has skated and practiced headache-free for nine straight days.

The powerful right wing had said that he was aiming to return this week, for either Tuesday's game or Thursday's in Dallas.

But Nash also cautioned that he wanted a few more practices for conditioning and contact, and the team does not have a full practice until Wednesday.

Nash is recovering from his second concussion in eight months. The first came in Boston on Feb. 12 on a check into the glass by forward Milan Lucic. Nash played the next two games, then missed four straight.

If Nash doesn't play against Boston, it appears he will return at some point on the five-game road trip, which also includes stops in Nashville, Tampa, Florida and Boston. Brandon Mashinter, who would have been a second spare forward on the journey, was returned to Hartford Monday. The team stated the move was not linked to Nash's status.

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The Blueshirts have 12 healthy forwards without Nash, and fourth-liner J.T. Miller has made some positive contributions in the past two games.

The team prefers Mashinter play rather than sit. He was a healthy scratch for four of the last six games and wasn't likely to play against the Bruins. The Hartford Wolf Pack plays Wednesday and four other times while the Rangers are away.

The Rangers crave a healthy Nash, who scored 21 goals in 44 games last year. The Rangers have totaled three goals in the last three games, going 1-2, and are 1-for-13 on the power play. Nash, who likely would return to the first line, certainly has produced on special teams. He had 25 power-play goals and five shorthanded tallies in the 277 games before this season.

Already below the salary-cap ceiling, the Rangers were not forced to make a move but will create a little more (a total of about $1.4 million) with Mashinter's demotion.

Notes & quotes: When Nash returns, Benoit Pouliot, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent and is 2-2-4 in 20 games, or Miller, could be scratched . . . Taylor Pyatt, who will miss his fifth game tonight with a concussion but is said to be improving, remains on IR.

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