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Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash could return this weekend

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash (61) skates

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash (61) skates off the ice with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, right, and center Derick Brassard (16) after scoring the game-winning goal during the overtime period against the Florida Panthers, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. The Rangers won 5-4 in overtime. Rick Nash scored a hat trick. Credit: AP / Joel Auerbach

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Two of the Rangers’ top players, Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash, who have been sidelined by injuries, are on track to return this weekend.

The Rangers visit the Red Wings on Saturday and host the Penguins on Sunday, but it was unclear after an optional practice Thursday in which game — or games — they’ll appear.

Lundqvist, who has missed three games since being felled in a collision with teammate Ryan McDonagh in Pittsburgh that triggered neck spasms, said he is “pretty close to 100 percent,” and that it was up to coach Alain Vigneault to determine when he starts.

“That’s the plan,” Lundqvist said. “The last few days have been a lot better. I feel pretty close to recovered; now it’s more about getting my game to where it was a week ago. My plan the whole week was to feel better and increase in intensity.”

Nash, out since Jan. 22 with a bone bruise in his left leg, wore a non-contact jersey and skated with seven other players who took shots on Lundqvist and Antti Raanta. He will speak with doctors Friday to determine if he can be cleared for contact.

“It’s been all positive since I started skating again,” Nash said. “I’m trying to go harder each day and see how the injury reacts. Today was definitely the hardest day so far.”

Defenseman Marc Staal, who missed the last two games with back spasms, did not skate and remains day-to-day, a team spokesman said. With Dylan McIlrath sidelined with a knee injury, it’s possible that Brady Skjei is recalled from the AHL for the fourth time this season.

Vigneault was unavailable for comment Thursday but will be watching closely when the Rangers (39-22-6, 84 points) practice Friday before they fly to Detroit, which holds a wild-card berth at 32-23-11 and 75 points.

New York Sports