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Trade to Rangers took defenseman Nick Holden by surprise

Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers

Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers celebrates after Matt Puempel (not pictured) scored a power play goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Dec. 29, 2016, in Glendale, Arizona. Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

DENVER — Defenseman Nick Holden was taken by surprise when the Colorado Avalanche traded him to the Rangers on June 25.

Six months later, he is playing for a team in the thick of the playoff race while his former squad is last in the NHL in points.

It turns out it wasn’t a bad move for the 29-year-old Holden, even if being dealt was unexpected.

“I had no idea it was coming,” he said after Saturday’s morning skate. “When it happened, obviously at first it was a little bit of a shock. When I was told it was the Rangers, with their history and being good for so many years, it was exciting I was going to that organization.”

It has been a good move for the Rangers, too. Holden has seven goals and 13 assists and has given coach Alain Vigneault flexibility in the defensive pairings.

“We all thought we were getting a trustworthy defenseman that could be versatile, that could go from a third pair to a first pair depending on how he was playing and your group was playing,” Vig neault said. “He could also help you out on a second power-play unit. There’s no doubt he’s done that.”

Nash close to return

Forward Rick Nash was on the ice Friday and Saturday, a sign that he might return soon from his groin injury. Nash has missed five straight games and nine overall in December with the injury. “He’s coming along,” Vigneault said. “He had a normal jersey [Saturday] morning. He was out there and skating well.”

Points streak

With assists on Chris Kreider’s two first-period goals, Mats Zuccarello has points in seven of his eight career games against the Avalanche. He has recorded at least one point in each of the four games played in Colorado.

New York Sports