WILMINGTON — Last summer, the team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals landed the offseason’s biggest prize.
Rick Nash, a two-time 40-goal scorer, will make his New York Rangers debut on Saturday against the Bruins at TD Garden. The Rangers acquired Nash from Columbus in a package that sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a 2013 first-round pick to the Blue Jackets.
Against the Bruins, Nash will ride shotgun with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin on the Rangers’ No. 1 line. Given Richards’s vision and playmaking ability, Nash could hit a point-per-game rate on Broadway.
“We’re playing a team that, with Nash in the lineup, has added a pretty important piece and a pretty skilled individual,” said coach Claude Julien.
Nash could be the difference-making offensive dynamo. Last year, Henrik Lundqvist (39-18-5, 1.97 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie. Defensive defenseman Dan Girardi led a defensive corps that, backstopped by Lundqvist, allowed 2.22 goals per game, third-fewest in the league. Coach John Tortorella’s system required his players to block shots. The Rangers stepped in front of 1,338 pucks, fourth-most in the NHL.
Last season, opposing coaches could key on Marian Gaborik (41 -35—76). On Saturday, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, Boston’s top defensive pairing, will most likely have to match against Nash’s line. In turn, Gaborik can skate more shifts without Chara’s shadow.
“It’s a team that a lot of people predict has a real good chance of winning the Stanley Cup,” Julien said. “We might as well get at it right away and play against a good team. If anything, it will certainly make us better quicker. It’s a great way to start.”
Warsofsky makes cut
David Warsofsky had less than a week of training camp to make his case for a spot on the varsity. In retrospect, Warsofsky made his best push in his 30-game audition with Providence.
Warsofsky, who will be the big club’s No. 7 defenseman, scored two goals and had seven assists in 30 AHL games. The Marshfield native might have been Providence’s most consistent defenseman prior to the lockout’s conclusion.
“He’s here not just by fluke,” Julien said. “I think he’s had a great year. He’s played well down there. He’s got a year under his belt. He certainly knows how to handle the professional competition that’s ahead of him. He played well for them the other night. All their guys did. Watching him in Providence, he moved the puck well. Pretty smart in his decision-making. He’s a guy that’s pretty shifty, good speed, got a good shot. He gets a chance to stay.”
The 22-year-old Warsofsky, acquired from St. Louis for Vladimir Sobotka, edged Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson for the final blue-line opening.
“It was a short camp. I think it’s hard to impress when you only have that amount of time,” Warsofsky said. “But I know a lot of staff have been down in Providence this year. I tried to take that into consideration. They’ve seen a lot of games down there. I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Jay Pandolfo will remain with the Bruins indefinitely on his professional tryout contract. Pandolfo can practice with the Bruins and work out at TD Garden and Ristuccia Arena. He can sign a standard player contract with the Bruins or any other club at any time.
“It feels great to be here,” Pandolfo said. “Hopefully it lasts and it’s a long-term thing. But right now, I’m happy with the situation. We’ll just go from here.”
The Bruins might ask Pandolfo to see game action in Providence. Pandolfo said he’d be willing to go down if that led to an NHL deal.
“I’ve been impressed with his camp,” Julien said. “At his age, I think he’s skating well. He’s kept up with the pace. He’s another guy that hasn’t played. To see him keep up with the pace, for a 38-year-old, that means he’s in pretty good shape. You see his experience. He scored a goal the other night. He’s not known necessarily for goal scoring in this league. But he can score goals. His insight on the game, his experience — I’ve always seen him as an extremely smart player that reads the play well.
“I liked him a lot. Our management liked him a lot, so we’re keeping him here for the time being. We’ll have to make a decision on him at some point. But right now, he certainly deserves to be here.”
Lucic back on ice
Milan Lucic and injured forward Jordan Caron were the only players to skate at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. All other players participated in off-ice workouts. Lucic was called to the ice because he was excused on Thursday, when wife Brittany delivered daughter Valentina (8 pounds, 1 ounce), the couple’s first child. Lucic said they picked the name Valentina because it has Eastern European roots. Lucic and his wife are of Serbian heritage . . . Dougie Hamilton’s parents, Doug and Lynn, were scheduled to begin driving from Niagara, Ontario, toward Massachusetts on Thursday. They planned to watch Doug’s older brother Freddie Hamilton play for Worcester against Manchester on Friday. They will then attend Dougie’s NHL debut Saturday . . . Lane MacDermid will be the extra forward. MacDermid made his NHL debut last season against the Rangers. MacDermid fought heavyweight Mike Rupp on his first shift.