2006-10-13 / Sports

Jagr's Shoulder May Give The Rangers Some Concerns

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

NEW YORK - With the shoulder on the mend and a goal in the first 29 seconds of the season, it looked like Jaromir Jagr was back in form.

But since that early first period goal, the star forward has not looked like the Jagr the Garden was treated with last season.

The 34 year-old still seems like he's having problems getting shots off. The ferocious one timer is not there and the Hart Trophy Finalist is looking a bit tentative when a shooting opportunity is present.

And it all leads back to the surgically repaired shoulder, which was dislocated in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against the New Jersey Devils.

"I didn't play for four or five months, so [the shoulder] is not going to be strong," Jagr said after the Rangers lost 4-2 to the Flyers on Tuesday night. "My shots are not there and I can't really shoot. It's going to take time."

If Jagr is not 100 percent and a diminished offensive force, teams will start looking to play straight up one on one hockey rather then teeing off and centering their attention on the Rangers' captain. That will hurt some of the supporting players who get their points because Jagr is open.

"Teams understand how Jags plays now and they are on him quickly," Renney said. "They are certainly jumping him and we need to create an open ice surface to create an attack off of it.

Because of the injured hinge, coach Tom Renney needed to rethink his power play. Now, the Rangers are focusing on Brendan Shanahan instead of Jagr with No. 68 taking more of an outside role with Shanahan taking the prime shots.

"We need to take advantage of the getting the puck not to just Shanny, but everyone and put the puck at the net," Renney said.

Also, because Jagr missed the preseason, the power play has not jelled. There are sloppy setups and frankly, Jagr is looking like an extra wheel. Going into Tuesday's game against the Flyers, the Blueshirts were 0-9 with the extra man for the season, and the futility continued until Shanahan broke through with a power play goal late in the second period on Tuesday. All in all, they are 1-17 through the first three games.

Renney sees his team not attacking the puck when there is a man advantage. "We need to put pucks on goal," he said. "We need to battle for body position. I don't see us taking the last stride or two to complete the deal.

"With NHL guys, it's all confidence. We will continue to prop them up and put them out there."

Now, this is only three games and obviously a 2-1-0 record is nothing to sneeze at after three games. But Jagr needs to become something like the player that led the team last year in almost all offensive categories.

Because if he's not, then the Rangers may have trouble later in the season.

"If I don't get hurt again, it's going to get better and better," Jagr said. And that is something the Rangers are hoping for.

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