You're inevitably going to learn a lot about the Rangers over the next couple of weeks. As the Rangers schedule increases from hard to extreme in the month of March, the Rangers will continue to be without their top forward for at least two weeks.
AV said on radio (Francesa) yesterday he believe Nash will be back "in a couple of weeks." https://t.co/j6dExsv4Et— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) March 2, 2016
The Rick Nash injury had been escalated a few weeks ago from day-to-day to week-to-week. In reality the bone bruise that happened in Carolina has cost the Rangers forward 16 straight games; a stretch in which the Rangers have gone 11-4-1.
It was fair to make the assumption the Rangers had done their homework on Nash's injury and timetable for a return, especially since they spent big to bring in pure rental Eric Staal at the trade deadline. What Staal will be able to do in the short term is replace Nash's offense, eventually becoming another well of offensive creativity when the Rangers normal goal-scorer returns to action.
The fear, of course, is this injury has been nagging enough to keep Nash out much longer than expected, and with just over a month left in the season it would be nice to see him get at least 5-10 games of action in before the playoffs roll around. Because, you know, the Rangers sort of have to go all in this year and having Nash at full strength would be a big help.
Even with Nash sitting due to injury, Staal started his first game on Broadway on the third line. Alain Vigneault appears to see Staal as a center for this team (nothing wrong with that) and as George (RangerSmurf) pointed out, moving him to the third line makes it a matchup nightmare for other teams to handle when Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello are the main focus on the top line. It also helps when J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan are generating your secondary scoring.
The Rangers record without Nash, while impressive, was sort of a roller coaster. The Rangers either beat really good teams, got bailed out by Henrik Lundqvist or lost to non-playoff teams. It was a ... strange month.
Either way, the Rangers are going to have their work cut out for them in March. They face the Penguins three times and have matchups slated with the Capitals, Islanders, Red Wings, Kings, Bruins, Panthers and Ducks, too.
Let's hope Staal starts regressing tonight in Pittsburgh.