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Rick Nash will play Friday in Columbus for first time as a Ranger

Rangers' Rick Nash skates against the Boston Bruins

Rangers' Rick Nash skates against the Boston Bruins in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 19, 2013. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Homecomings are different for everyone, and in this case, Rick Nash didn't stay in his house nearby, he said, but "at a hotel, just like a regular road trip."

Like players in every sport who switch teams and cities, Nash, who spent a decade here, is balancing the past and present: Each is tugging at the former Blue Jackets captain, who will play at Nationwide Arena for the first time Friday as a Ranger.

"I'll have a lot of family and friends here, so I know they'll be cheering," Nash said after practice. "As for all the other fans, I'm not sure what to expect. If I get cheers, great; if I get boos, which I'm sure there will be, I'll move on from that."

Nash, who was sidelined with a concussion when the Rangers won here, 4-2, on Nov. 7, said returning and seeing familiar faces, such as those of security guards, was "tough to describe . . . a lot of friends made," and was pleased by his former team being on the cusp of a postseason berth.

"Four playoff games in 10 years, it was a tough go," he said of his Blue Jackets tenure, which ended somewhat acrimoniously with his July 2012 trade. "So I'm happy for the fans, I'm happy for ownership . . . it's good to see them succeed. But at the end of the day, I'm worried about our team; I'm not worried about what they're doing, or what Philly's doing, or Washington; I'm worried about what we have to do for the remainder of the season."

With 12 games left, the Rangers (37-29-4) are in a playoff spot, but must capitalize on scoring chances and cannot simply rely on quality goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. "You need to make other teams pay for their mistakes," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm hoping those eight goals [against Ottawa Tuesday] is going to help start a couple of our offensive guys. Nasher came up real big for us."

Nash, who has 22 goals in 53 games, scored twice in the 8-4 victory -- a shorthander and an empty-netter -- for his fourth multigoal game this season.

"I want to get streaky," said Nash, who has scored 20 or more goals in 10 straight seasons. "But I've always said if I can't be scoring, I want to help the team the other way; the two points are the most important thing with the position we're in and the amount of games left."

Notes & quotes: Benoit Pouliot, who left the team late Tuesday, remained in New York; his daughter was born Wednesday. Derek Dorsett, who skated in his spot with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, will replace him Friday night if Pouliot isn't ready, Vigneault said.

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