By Peter Botte / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 6:36 PM
Rick Nash didn’t accompany the Rangers to Ottawa for Thursday’s game against the Senators, and John Tortorella is calling upon his top forwards to step up their games in the injured winger’s absence.
“Everybody has injuries. We just have to play. Nash is a big part of our team and he’s been a very good player for our team. But he’s out,” Tortorella said after practice Wednesday in Greenburgh. “With Nash out or not, we have some other guys — Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, a number of people, even on the back end — that need to play better.”
Tortorella calls Tuesday’s 3-1 home loss to Montreal “probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve been a part of, both teams.”
The coach added after reviewing video Wednesday that he’s “trying to look at it as half-full,” noting the Blueshirts had managed points in their previous five games (4-0-1) even though he doesn’t believe “we have a good portion of our team playing consistently, with pace.”
Nash, who leads the Rangers with 12 points and a plus-9, will sit for the second straight game Thursday night with an undisclosed injury. But the Rangers haven’t ruled out the star winger from rejoining them Saturday in Montreal.
Nash was driven into the boards by Boston’s Milan Lucic on Feb. 12, leading to speculation that he’s been dealing with a possible injury from that hit. He faced the Islanders on Thursday and Washington on Sunday, totaling a game-high eight shots against the Caps in more than 22 minutes. Nash also suffered a groin injury while playing in Switzerland during the lockout.
“(Tuesday) was an ugly game to watch and an ugly game to play,” Marian Gaborik said. “We missed (Nash), but it is what it is. Whoever is out there, we have to take the game to another level. I don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but we have to find a way to play without him.”
Gaborik took Nash’s place Tuesday on the right of Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan, whom Tortorella noted “have been really two of our most consistent players for quite a while here.”
Richards, who hasn’t scored a goal in 10games, skated between Callahan and Chris Kreider.
“We can’t just have one line going,” Tortorella said. “I thought Step and Hags have (played well). That’s great. Hags, I crawled all over him that we need him to add some secondary stuff to us, as far as scoring, and he’s done that.
“Now we have to get the primary (guys) going. In our thinking, we have to get more out of some other guys more consistently.”