GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers need Rick Nash to play up to his potential after the least productive season of his career. Coach Alain Vigneault is hoping that an ‘A’ on his sweater will help.
The Rangers announced on Tuesday that Nash will be an alternate captain beginning with Thursday’s season opener against the Islanders.
Nash was captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets from the 2008-09 season until he was traded to the Rangers in July 2012. Nash, 32, joins Derek Stepan, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal as alternates. Ryan McDonagh is entering his third season as captain.
“I discussed it with Ryan and he felt that with Rick’s past experience, he would be a great fit and be a big help to him,” Vigneault said. “I don’t want to say added pressure, but with this added importance I’m hoping that Rick gets more involved than in the past. Every time he has been prodded or challenged, he has responded well. We need him to respond well.”
Nash was sidelined for two months last season with a leg injury and scored just 15 goals. The veteran winger has scored 30 or more eight times in his career and is seven goals shy of 400.
“It’s an honor whenever you get represented with a letter, especially for an organization like this that has so many good leaders through the years,” he said. “It’s an honor to wear. It just shows the trust the organization shows in you, the support that they’re behind you. But, in saying that, everyone has to bring some amounts of leadership their own way.”
Nash is in the seventh season of an eight-year contract that carries an annual cap charge of $7.8 million. The Rangers are not expecting him to all of a sudden become a rah-rah type of leader.
“His experience, the way he plays, that’s the way to lead as well,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “We have a lot of different types of leaders on the team. Guys who talk more, guys who have the right mentality when it comes to the practice part. He’s that type of guy.”
MRI for Klein. D Kevin Klein was scheduled for an MRI after suffering back spasms for the second straight day and may miss the opener. Because of Klein’s uncertainty, the Rangers are expected to carry eight defensemen on their opening night roster.
With Steve Zipay