GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Rick Nash stood out in his red no-contact jersey, back doing some drills with his teammates at practice Monday for the first time since suffering a bad bone bruise in his left leg in January. The big Rangers wing also skated before practice, as did big-time goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The Islanders are right on the second-place Rangers’ backs, only three points behind in the Metro with three games in hand after beating the Blueshirts, 6-4, Sunday at Madison Square Garden.But assistance could be on the way soon.
Lundqvist and Nash won’t play Tuesday night at Buffalo. Lundqvist, though, reported progress with the neck spasms he suffered Thursday at Pittsburgh. He did some pre-practice drills and said he plans to be ready for this weekend. The Rangers play Saturday at Detroit, then host the Penguins Sunday. Nash also wouldn’t rule out a Saturday return if he gets in a couple of practices and is cleared.
“I think the first couple of days after the game in Pittsburgh, it was not feeling that good,” Lundqvist said. “But I still feel like each day has been a step in the right direction. So I feel confident. The last two days here, I’ve been feeling a lot better.”
Antti Raanta excelled in his place Friday in the 3-2 win over Washington but yielded five of the Islanders’ goals, including four in the first period. Lundqvist got hurt during the second period in Pittsburgh in a collision with Ryan McDonagh, then drew a delay-of-game penalty after angrily pushing over the net because a referee didn’t call for an injury stoppage.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury panned the act, calling it “baby stuff.”
“When I realized the puck was in our end, I was not really ready to play,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t know how I came up with that conclusion to move the net, but that’s what came up in my head. I’m not going to apologize for it. I needed a break.”
Nash has had an extra-long break since getting injured Jan. 22 at Carolina. But coach Alain Vigneault said, “He went from week-to-week now to day-to-day.”
So how did the starting, stopping and cutting go on the ice?
“It was something that you’re definitely kind of nervous to see how it’s going to feel,” Nash said. “It felt good. It was a positive day for sure.”
Notes & quotes: Vigneault said Dylan McIlrath is “day-to-day” after hurting his right knee Sunday. McIlrath is out against Buffalo, as is fellow defenseman Marc Staal, who was sidelined Sunday with back spasms. The Rangers recalled defenseman Brady Skjei from Hartford on an emergency basis.