Good Morning
Good Morning

Rick Nash is prepared for the expectations that await him as a Ranger

Rick Nash skates during the Rangers' second day

Rick Nash skates during the Rangers' second day of training camp. (Jan. 14, 2013) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- No Ranger is facing more of a transition -- or higher expectations -- than Rick Nash.

The 28-year-old power winger, the Blue Jackets' No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, scored at least 30 goals in seven of his nine seasons for Columbus and won gold and silver medals in the Olympics and World Championships for Team Canada. Now his team expects to be in the thick of the chase for the Stanley Cup in May instead of vying for media attention with Ohio State spring football.

"I've had expectations on me my whole career, since being a high draft pick and going to a club that had never made the playoffs," Nash said Monday after his second day of training camp. "I think professional athletes like the pressure, they embrace it. And it's no different here [for me]."

A five-time All-Star, the 6-4 native of Brampton, Ontario, is settling into his Manhattan apartment and the MSG Training Center after spending 17 games during the lockout with Davos of the Swiss League, where he had 12 goals and six assists.

Nash also played in Davos with Joe Thornton of the Sharks during the lost NHL season of 2004-05 but returned to Columbus. Now he needs to adapt to new teammates and surroundings.

"You get used to something for 10 years," said Nash, who has reached the 40-goal mark twice. "The same dressing room, same drive to the rink, same restaurants. It's not only different on the ice, it's off the ice, too."

But as a Ranger, he said, "you don't have to worry about 22 other guys," as he did as captain in Columbus.

"I felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders to do that,'' he said. "Here, there's so many leaders, so many guys who have been captains or assistant captains with other clubs, and young guys who are respected in the dressing room."

Opponents certainly respect Nash, who had 289 goals and 547 points in 674 regular-season games with Columbus. The Jackets were perennial strugglers in the Western Conference, with only one playoff appearance (four games in 2009).

Acquired in June for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick, Nash hasn't played a lot against Eastern Conference teams, but his performance didn't dip: He had 101 points in 129 games (55 goals, 46 assists) against foes who fill the Rangers' schedule this season.

"He's at a point in his career where this is the next step in his game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He comes to a bigger market, more pressure put on him, trying to find his way to the playoffs. I think we have him at a perfect time, a perfect age . . . No disrespect for Columbus, it's a different stage. I think this is perfect timing [for him] and the Rangers' organization to have him here."

With Brad Richards out the past two days with the flu, Nash misses his new center, but his offensive prowess has been noted.

"He's very talented. You can see each day the level of skill comes out more and more," Henrik Lundqvist said. "It's fun for a goalie against a guy who loves to score. So far, it's been a good test. A team can go a long way working really hard, but you need some skill. That could be the difference a lot of nights."

Notes & quotes: Rookie Chris Kreider, a speedster who scored five goals in the playoffs last season, "practiced very well" Monday, Tortorella said, but "is still fighting for a spot . . . He has some gifts. We're hoping they come to the forefront."

New York Sports