2006-03-03 / Sports

Jagr Hopes To Continue Good Fortunes

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

GREENBURGH, NY – After a long two weeks, Jaromir Jagr’s Ranger teammates welcomed him back the only way they knew how.

With a prank.

In the empty locker next to No. 68, someone placed a picture of Jagr with a crooked helmet on top and the word ‘Kotel’ coming out of his mouth, which is Czech for ‘You got smoked!’

Jagr could only smile as the Rangers started to get back to business.

“The season was pretty good so far,” he assessed. “But we have 24 games and then the playoffs. It’s up to us. A lot of guys are tired, but so is everybody. Somehow, we’ll go through it.”

As the team prepares for the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, Jagr rested his first day back at the MSG Training Facility. After playing eight games in 11 games, the NHL’s leading scorer said he was “tired’ and needed to recharge for the remainder of the season.

The Rangers star had a tough two weeks in Torino, as he had to not just endure the extra workload, but took what he called a “cheap shot” from Jarko Ruutu. Wearing a helmet which is no longer allowed in the NHL, Jagr got his head stitched after being boarded from behind by the Finnish winger.

“But it’s about respecting the players,” Jagr thought. “When you hit one guy and you don’t see the other guy coming, it’s a cheap shot.”

He doesn’t regret his headgear decision though.

“The helmets here are better, but the way I look at it 10 years back everybody played with that helmet and [the games] were even tougher. It’s a matter of time until you get hit.”

Any future decision won’t matter, since Jagr feels he will now retire from international play. Fifteen years on the Czech National Team is just enough for him.

He explained why: “To play here and then go on the big ice with different rules and no be able to practice with everyone depending on me, it makes me tired. I don’t think I am good enough to do it.”

So now the 34 year-old will concentrate on the Rangers. Even with a tired body and tweaked groin – which he feels is no problem – the team will need his scoring touch in the lineup everyday. With 40 goals and 48 assists, Jagr will need to keep scoring if the Blueshirts are expected to make a run in April and May.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen,” Jagr said. “We did so good before the Olympic break, so hopefully we will play as good and win the division.”

And maybe, he will play a prank or two on his teammates as well.

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