After being bit by the injury bug, New York Rangers’ Rick Nash is now close to returning. How would you rearrange the lineup?

By Chris Wengert

With Rick Nash a week or two away from returning to the New York Rangers roster, how should head coach Alain Vigneault rearrange the lineup?

Prior to Eric Staal‘s arrival, this question would have been an easy one to answer as AV probably would have reunited the Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello line.

Here is what the lineup looked like before Nash’s injury back in January:

Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello
Kreider-Stepan-Miller
Lindberg-Hayes-Stalberg
Glass-Moore-Fast

By comparison, here was the lineup against Buffalo on Tuesday night:

Hayes-Brassard-Fast
Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello
Lindberg-E.Staal-Stalberg
Miller-Moore-Glass

The addition of Eric Staal makes the lineup question very interesting, and even exciting. Rather than looking at the lineup as a complicated puzzle, which it most likely would have been without Staal, it becomes a sea of possibilities.

RELATED: Derek Stepan Makes A Mind-Boggling Statement

Do you keep that third line intact? Should AV construct an elite first line and shuffle the current first liners down? Or perhaps does AV create a line of Ranger “bigs”, with Nash, Staal, and Hayes?

The possibilities are encouraging, but one question remains: How healthy and effective will Rick Nash be when he returns?

Conditioned or not conditioned, that is the question.

I’m sure Nash is working his butt off, but skating on your own or in a full speed game are two very different things.

We saw this phenomenon last year, when Kevin Klein and Martin St. Louis returned from injuries. Both players were shells of their former selves, and that sprained knee probably ended St. Louis’ career for all intents and purposes.

But if Nash returns rested and effective, the whole game changes. Here are a couple different ways that AV could construct the lineup:

Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello
Kreider-Stepan-Miller
Lindberg-E.Staal-Hayes
Stalberg-Moore-Fast

Yes, Moore slows down the fourth line a bit, but putting Fast and Stalberg together would make up for it. That third line is reminiscent of the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line of 2014.

Here is another possibility:

Nash-E.Staal-Hayes
Kreider-Stepan-Miller
Lindberg-Brassard-Zuccarello
Stalberg-Moore-Fast

This is enticing. In this combination the second and third lines basically become equals.

Nash’s health really will make all of the difference. If he returns and is a dud, the whole lineup could go limp.

Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller will need to step up as well.

Miller had a killer January, but has disappeared the past couple of weeks. In a similar fashion, Kreider started to play with that bite that we have seen over the past couple of seasons, but played underwhelming games against both the Islanders and Sabers.

Hopefully AV will have some time to tinker with these lineups, but one thing is for sure: If he really wants to construct the best possible roster, Tanner Glass becomes an extra.

Will Alain Vigneault have the onions to finally sideline Glass? Who knows.

So what is your take? What is the best possible lineup with a healthy Rick Nash?

NEXT: The State Of Rangerstown Vol 1.0

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Chris Wengert

I’ve been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals.

E-mail me at: [email protected]