51° Good Afternoon
51° Good Afternoon

Alain Vigneault wants better effort from Rangers' top line

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on during

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on during training camp at the Madison Square Garden training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y., on Sept. 20, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Rangers forward Rick Nash played nine seasons with the Blue Jackets and still spends part of his summers in this city with his wife and young son.

But when Nash and the Rangers visit Nationwide Arena Friday night to face the Blue Jackets, all he's focused on is the game, he said before the team boarded a plane Thursday.

The Rangers' second game of the season carries a little more weight for the left wing and his linemates, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard. They had little impact in the Blueshirts' 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Wednesday night and were chided by coach Alain Vigneault after practice in Chicago.

"My expectations on that line are so high," Vigneault said. "I think I've got three elite players that have got to come to play and play hard every night. If you ask them, they might tell you, 'Well, we're slow starters.' I say, 'Compete harder, try a little harder and be a quick starter.' ''

Nash, who scored 42 goals last season, had four shots on goal, missed the net three times and had two attempts blocked in 15:24. Brassard had one shot and Zuccarello none, and the Norwegian winger committed a hooking penalty 6:39 into the game.

"We've got to be better," Nash said. "There's a lot of rust out there. We had a pretty good preseason, but [Wednesday] just wasn't good enough. I don't know exactly what it was, but it seemed like we couldn't make many plays once we got around the blue lines, both blue lines. I think it'll just come with confidence. Hopefully the next game, it'll be different."

In a bit of a surprise, Vigneault said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will start for the second straight game and also is likely to play in the Rangers' home opener Saturday, also against Columbus. Vigneault generally has used his backup goalie in back-to-backs.

"We haven't played a lot of hockey," Vigneault said, referring to the six-day break since the final preseason game. "I think this is a good way to get Hank going, get him playing and get him feeling good about his game."

New York Sports