Rick Nash has yet to don his big boy pants

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Prior to Monday’s Game 3 loss to the Penguins, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault called out his top players by saying they needed to put on their “big boy pants,” much like how Pittsburgh’s stars had done.

And then Rick Nash proceeded to go goalless for the 10th straight playoff game.

In what’s becoming a major problem for the Blueshirts — or already is one, depending on your comfort level — Nash’s offense has been completely absent and there are few signs it’s about to come around. In the last two losses, he’s managed to put just seven shots on goal (and, tellingly, played a playoff-low 15:30 in Game 2); in Game 3, his Corsi (50 percent) and relative Corsi (-12.3 percent) were the fourth-lowest among all Rangers skaters — and this came in a game where the Blueshirts outshot Pittsburgh by a decidedly large margin (35-15).

Prior to Monday’s defeat, Nash said his efforts this postseason simply weren’t enough.

“It’s disappointing that I can’t help the team win,” he sad, per the Toronto Sun. “If you are not scoring goals, you help in other ways. But it is definitely frustrating not being able to score.”

Even more frustrating? Nash’s lack of postseason production isn’t isolated to this season.

The 29-year-old’s played 22 playoff games for New York and scored a grand total of one goal, which came during a Game 2 loss to Boston in last year’s second round. Nash bookended that goal with a pair of ugly slumps: an eight-game drought prior to, and this current 13-game slide that’s carried over from last year.

It’s an alarming lack of production. While Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was recently mired in a goalless drought of his own, at least he was racking up some points with seven through nine playoff games. Nash’s offense, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. He’s racked up just four assists — three of them secondary — with just one coming on the power play.

The Rangers have been down this road before with their big-ticket forwards. Marian Gaborik, who came to New York on a $37.5 million deal, scored just six goals in 25 playoff appearances — one fewer than he has in nine games with the Kings this year.

Brad Richards, currently on a $60 million deal, has four goals and eight points in his last 20 playoff games (granted, Richards did score 15 points in his first 20.)

But the big difference with Richards and Gaborik was they at least had some previous playoff success. Richards won the Conn Smythe during Tampa’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship, and Gaborik literally carried Minnesota to the 2003 Western Conference final, scoring nine goals and 17 points in 18 games.

Nash has none of this.

His only playoff experience prior to joining the Rangers was a brief four-game cameo with Columbus in 2009, when he was 24 years old. He had three points in those games, but also finished minus-4.

As such, Nash’s ability to put on the big boy pants will continue to be called into question — because there are no past examples of him ever wearing ’em.

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”

Panthers didn’t want to trade Crouse, but Bolland contract was ‘strangling’ them

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Interesting note here from Florida head coach Tom Rowe who, last night, watched former Panther prospect Lawson Crouse play in Florida for the first time since being traded to Arizona.

Crouse was the price the Panthers had to pay to unload Dave Bolland‘s contract on the Coyotes last summer. Rowe wasn’t involved with the Bolland signing, but was involved in dumping the contract — he was Florida’s assistant GM at the time the deal went down.

His take, from the Miami Herald:

Florida traded Crouse to the Coyotes last summer as part of a salary cap dump; Arizona took on the final three years and $16.5-million of Dave Bolland’s contract in exchange for a top prospect — in this case, Crouse.

“We got criticized for giving up on a great young prospect but we had to,” Rowe said. “That contract was strangling us, cap-wise. …

“When we traded him, our scouts were furious. I’m not going to lie. But we had to do something and that was trade Lawson. I’m sure, to this day, he’s still sour about it.”

Crouse, who Florida took 11th overall at the 2015 draft, has five goals and 11 points through 64 games this year, averaging 11:50 TOI per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they do need to be taken in context — Crouse is only 19 years old, and the 10th-youngest player to play in the NHL this season.

Bolland, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December of 2015, due to a variety of back and ankle injuries. His time in Florida was largely forgettable — after scoring the $27.5 million pact, he played just 78 games in a Panthers uniform, scoring 28 points.  It’s widely regarded as the worst deal GM Dale Tallon has made during his time with the organization.

Shortly after taking on his contract, Coyotes GM John Chayka said Bolland wouldn’t be healthy for the “foreseeable future.” The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, at $5.5 million annually.

 

Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

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Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough does not expect a piece of legislation to pass that would give the Coyotes millions of dollars in public financing to build a new arena.

That being said, Yarbrough thinks the Coyotes may be able to gain some “traction” if they offer to put in more of their own money.

Under the current plan, the team has pledged $170 million of the arena’s total cost, which is estimated at almost $400 million. The difference would be made up by new sales taxes, plus $55 million from the still-to-be-determined host city.

“If you are getting no traction the way the bill is designed, you could see if the hockey team paid a greater portion,” Yarbrough told the Arizona Republic yesterday. “I have been around this business long enough to know that if it’s not working in this format, you change the format to make it more attractive.”

For their part, the Coyotes have not said whether they’d be willing to pay a greater portion of the project, only that they’ll continue to “work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area, a market that both the club and the NHL believe is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

Related: Bettman says Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale”

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.