The Rick Nash speculation increased Thursday, with Columbus assistant GM Chris MacFarland on the list for Thursday night's game at the Garden and with the Rangers -- one of five teams for which the superstar wing will waive his no-trade clause -- continuing discussions with the Blue Jackets.

Nash, 27, is a prolific scorer but has a $7.8-million salary-cap hit for each of the next six seasons. The Blue Jackets reportedly are asking for at least one top forward, two prospects and one or two high draft picks.

Including Brandon Dubinsky ($4.2 million per season) in the deal would ease the financial strain; what is unclear is which youngsters the Rangers would offer before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. One player who wouldn't be easy to relinquish is forward Chris Kreider, the team's top prospect, currently at Boston College. The Jackets, who might be hiring a new GM and coach, also could wait until the offseason to pull the trigger.

There is no doubt that the Rangers are very intrigued, given the fact that players of Nash's caliber aren't readily available.


Blue notes

Even John Tortorella is caught up in "Lin-sanity." "I don't know much about basketball, but I watch him, and I just love the way he handles himself," he said of Jeremy Lin. "What I've seen, there's just a humbleness about him, but he keeps on going about his business and finds a way. We're around the cafeteria [at the training center] with those guys and we know the coaches; we're glad it's turned around for them and hopefully it'll continue.'' . . . Ruslan Fedotenko (head injury) missed his fourth consecutive game . . . Wojtek Wolski and Jeff Woywitka were healthy scratches .

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