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Sore back keeps Rick Nash out of Rangers' game against Avalanche

New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash skates

New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

DENVER - Rangers forward Rick Nash's sore back kept him out of Friday night's game against the Avalanche, and it is unclear whether he will be able to play Saturday night in Arizona.

Nash's back "locked up" during a shooting drill at practice Thursday. He left the ice and received treatment, but it didn't help enough to get him into the lineup.

"I think he had a good day today," coach Alain Vigneault said before Friday night's game. He described Nash as day-to-day.

Asked if he still considers the injury minor, Vigneault said, "Yes, definitely," but he couldn't say whether he will be available against the Coyotes.

Nash's issue, Vigneault said Thursday, appears to the sacroiliac joint, which is at the bottom of the spine. The pain, similar to sciatica, usually is centered there and can radiate down the legs. It can be treated with anesthetic injections.

Nash, 31, who has a goal and five assists, apparently suffered a similar condition two years ago and missed several days.

The snakebit winger leads the team with 33 shots on goal and has had numerous scoring chances, but he has missed the net or been thwarted by the goalie.

His only goal came Oct. 22 and didn't even hit the net. As he was skating toward an empty net late in the game against the Coyotes, he was hooked from behind by center Mikkel Boedker and awarded the goal.

Nash, who scored 42 goals in 79 games last season, has done well against the Avalanche with six goals and seven assists in the last 13 games.

Emerson Etem stepped in for Nash and played his fourth game, but it was his first with the top line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.

Etem wasn't the only new forward in the top six against the Avalanche (4-8-1). Based on his recent performances -- and the inconsistency of Jesper Fast -- J.T. Miller was elevated to the right side of the second line and Fast was dropped to the fourth line.

Miller rejoined center Derek Stepan and left wing Chris Kreider, familiar linemates from last season's playoffs, when Miller had eight points in 19 games.

The 15th overall pick in 2011, Miller posted 43 points in 41 games for Hartford in 2013-14, but his two-way play and decision-making haven't been deemed strong enough at the NHL level.

"There's mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes," Miller said. "I just want to go play and play hard. I probably played some of my better games in the beginning of the season. I think offensively I can be much better. The last six or seven games, I haven't had many good, prime chances. I just think I can be more effective with the puck sometimes."

Miller had four assists in the first three games and has an assist and a goal in the last nine.

The Rangers (8-2-2) were seeking their fourth straight win. Rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath dressed for the second straight game and Dan Boyle was a healthy scratch again.

New York Sports