© St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
November 10, 2002
Each day, Tyson Nash would wake up with pain in his right knee. Each game he'd play with it. Each stride would come too late or too quick and soon the only person his aggravating, pesky, annoying, gnawing play was ticking off was himself.
As the days blurred together, Nash reached a level of frustration that he used to cause.
"It was like 'Groundhog Day,'" said Nash, citing the movie in which Bill Murray relives the same day over and over. "You're waking up every morning and it's the same old thing again. Pain in the leg. It did drag through the whole year last year. Just a nagging, nagging pain.
"It's something that you can play with, but it . it really effects you mentally. More than anything it's just draining. Really draining. Nobody loves coming to the rink more than I do, and it was a tough year. You're frustrated when you can't help the team the way you want to."
Or the way they want you to.
Nash, who was scheduled to play on Saturday for the first time this season, is fighting to reclaim his opponent-enraging style of two years ago. Opponents despised him. Defensemen would look over their shoulder and see bearing down for the hit.
Then came two collisions that produced a major knee injury. It cut the 2000-01 season short and bothered him last season.
"I don't think he was ever right last season," said coach Joel Quenneville.
In summer 2001, Nash had essentially three surgeries, his first major surgeries. He had abdominal damage repaired on both sides of his torso. "New guts," he joked at the time. And, his knee was reconstructed.
He spent the summer strengthening the knee, he said, and perhaps neglected his other conditioning. His timing was off. His skating was slowed or erratic. His effectiveness was diminished more by, well, the ailments of most everyone else: confidence and consistency.
"There was always a little pain there," Nash said. "You're always hesitating a little bit and when there's hesitation in your game that's not a good thing. Last year, I always felt I was a step too early or a step too late. . Skating is probably the biggest thing I have going for me, and if I'm not skating I look real average."
Nash came into this season the most fit of the Blues. He had high scores on the physical tests. In training camp, he was back banging, too. Then during a post-practice shoot, he took a puck off the inside ankle of his left foot. He couldn't fit in his skates for several days. He missed the first 12 games, watching as the team hummed on without him.
But there is a spot for a revived, fan-favorite Nash. Quenneville has described him as a player that once he gets in, it's hard to take him out. Injuries have been the only thing to slow him in his three seasons.
Plus, with the re-enforced obstruction rules that prohibit holding forwards up at the blue line, Nash should have unimpeded passage into the forecheck. "He relished the opportunity to drive people nuts," said Dallas Drake. "He's the kind of guy who gets everybody infuriated at him. By the end of the game, the best players want to kill him, the tough guys want to kill him. He gets on everybody's nerves."
Said Doug Weight, "It's his antagonistic play, his forecheck and his no-fear attitude. It gets the whole team, the whole crowd into it."
Nash said he may try to pick his hits better, but that he's wary of changing his game too much. The Blues could use a Nash circa 2000, when he scored a career-high eight goals, committed 110 penalty minutes. Combined with Jamal Mayers, the two speedy scrappers could be feared forecheckers and Nash could set up the Blues' currently electric power play.
That's if Nash stays healthy enough.
"The style of the game I play, injuries happen ." Nash said. "No respect for your body is what I like to say."