2006-02-03 / Sports

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist
By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK – Tom Renney said he was “angry” at the lackluster performance the New York Rangers gave last Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss against the Buffalo Sabres at home.

“Maybe we got too full of ourselves after our last game [a 3-1 win vs. the New Jersey Devils],” the disappointed coach said. “It is all about arriving, about working to get somewhere and we didn’t work tonight not nearly as hard as we had to.”

Renney has a point. Though the Rangers have found some hidden gems with Henrik Lindqvist and Petr Prucha, outside of Jaromir Jagr, the team still doesn’t have the top-line talent of the Ottawa Senators or the Philadelphia Flyers. They need to work hard every night to come out with victories, since they can’t win on skill alone.

Sometimes the team gets too fancy for its own good.

“We didn’t shoot the puck near enough,” the coach declared. “It needs to be a perfect highlight goal for every night for us. We didn’t create any havoc tonight.”

It’s a problem the Ranger staff needs to fix fast. If the team keeps coming up small against teams in the regular season, the Blueshirts may go another year without playoff hockey in May.

“We didn’t respond to another chance of nailing down a playoff spot,” Renney said. “Those things are looking at us right in our faces and we want to seize that opportunity just to show we are capable of something special and push on.

And even if they do hold on to get there the coach feels, “We are not going to last long in the playoffs if we get there.”

**

One bright surprise this season for the Ranger has been the play of Jason Ward. Signed as free agent this offseason, the former Montreal Canadien has been a staple on the third line.

“Our main objective [on our third line] is not allow any goals,” Ward explained. “But if we get our chances, then we want to take pressure off the top two lines.”

Ward has responded with seven goals and 10 assists this season, partially because he is able to drive to the net especially on breakaways, though he feels his production could be better.

“A big part of my game is using my size to get to the net,” Ward thought. “I just have to get more shots and get the pucks through. It’s something I have to improve on.”

Part of the reason he had a drop off was the loss of line mate Blair Betts, who has been knocked out with a knee injury and Ward needed to adjust to Steve Rucchin on his line.

“We had a great thing going,” Ward said of his chemistry with Betts. “But now it’s going well with [Ville] Nieminen and Rucchin and I am feeling comfortable with them on the penalty kill too.”

Notes: Jagr scored with 30th goal in Tuesday that put him in second place for most consecutive seasons with 30 or more goals at 14. Former Ranger Mike Gartner has the record at 15 years.

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