Nash is back

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Rick Nash might be 50-50 on returning to active duty, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are 100% sure they want, and need, him back in the lineup.

The super-sniper hasn't played a game, save for one period of the season-opener against Washington, after suffering a high ankle sprain on the second day of training camp back in September. Nash missed the remainder of camp and then attempted to come back against the Capitals - only to be forced to sit out for the next 11 games.

Nash laboured a bit on his repaired wheel during the Blue Jackets' practice at Rexall Place yesterday, and will wait to see how the ankle feels before making a decision on whether to play tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.

"It's been tough with the lockout and then not being able to play. I'm just anxious to get in and play but saying that, I don't want to rush it," said Nash, who spent last winter in Switzerland, where he notched 47 points in 44 games for Davos.

"If it's not 100% this time then I'm not going to go. It's not back fully but almost everybody in the league has played with an injury before so it's not like I'm going to be the first guy."

The Jackets desperately want Nash to get at it as they've struggled offensively (last in the league with 22 goals in 12 games) without the gunner who netted 41 goals in the last NHL season. They've also been without blossoming defenceman Rostislav Klesla, who missed the entire pre-season due to a stress fracture in his leg.

The return of their dynamic duo would go a long way to getting things turned around for a team that was riding back-to-back overtime wins before losing in Minnesota on Saturday.

"Why we were so excited in the off-season and going into training camp was because when we have everybody on our lineup playing, we're a pretty good team," said Columbus head coach Gerard Gallant.

"It hasn't worked out yet but we're getting Rick and Rusty (Klesla) back, so we're going to be a good team and everybody's getting excited again."

Nash's injury has also hampered his efforts to secure a spot on the Canadian Olympic team bound for Italy in February.

That roster has to be set by Dec. 22, and Nash's absence from the ice might put his presence in a Maple Leaf jersey in jeopardy.

Then again, he was a great fit with Joe Thornton and Simon Gagne at the orientation camp in Kelowna back in August, so his hopes may not be seriously in doubt.

"It never was secure, and if it wasn't, it is a lot less secure now," Nash offered while mustering a little grin.

"I played in the world championships and tried my hardest to prove myself. If any injury sets me back, it sets me back. If I don't get to play, it's part of the business ... If they think the ankle's a problem then I'm still young, I'm only 21. There will be a couple more Olympics so I'll get a chance after."


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