Rick Nash, who has missed 15 games with a concussion, has been cleared by doctors to resume practicing with the Rangers Wednesday.
The Rangers' leading goal-scorer last season, who skated for a fourth consecutive day with a handful of teammates Tuesday, declared himself symptom-free and said that conditioning was the biggest issue moving forward.
"I'm a little slow, a little out of shape, but the important part is I feel good otherwise," said a confident Nash, who beat goaltender Cam Talbot twice in a row on break-ins during an hour on the ice at Madison Square Garden, snapping in a short-side wrister, and then, after deking Talbot, smoothly reaching one-handed to slide a backhander just inside the post.
"Every day I ask how he's doing and today I got the call after the skate," said coach Alain Vigneault, who will initially deploy Nash as he did with Dominic Moore, (strained oblique), as an eighth defenseman for a practice or two. "When we find his conditioning is where it needs to be, then we'll put him on a line," he said. "With concussions you never know, but he's made some big strides."
Following his longest on-ice session since he was felled by Brad Stuart's high hit on Oct. 8, Nash said "the plan is each day to do more and more on the ice and in the gym and see if any symptoms pop up . . . just kind of work my way back into game situations."
Nash, who has scored 30 or more goals in seven seasons and is signed through the 2018-19 season with a cap hit of $7.8 million per year, said there was no need to hurry into the lineup.
"New York's invested a lot in me and I've invested a lot in them," he said. "Even if we were losing, it would be stupid to rush back, just because of that. It's a long-term contract and we want to make sure from both sides that I come back at 110 percent ready to play."
Nash hopes to return to the form he had in the game before the injury, a 3-1 defeat of the Kings in Los Angeles, when he had two assists, six shots and three blocks in 17:55. "I think two-way, that was probably one of my best games [as a Ranger]," he said. "I felt like the puck was around me, I felt like I was creating opportunities."
Can he quickly reach that level? "I have all intentions of doing that," he said, "but I think it'll take a few shifts to get back to speed."
Nash also confirmed that five days after the hit, he flew to Michigan to visit head-trauma specialist Dr. Jeffrey Scott Kucher, a neurologist who has evaluated many NHL players. Kucher told him there would be no long-term effects. "At the end of the day," Nash said, "we all have the same goal: For the team to win and for me to be a piece of that."