2007-01-26 / Sports

Desperate New York Rangers Need An Infusion Of Youth To Save NHL Season

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

NEW YORK - Fifty points in 48 games and a ninth place standing in the East. That's hardly what the Rangers were thinking when the season started. But there it was as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday and much like the story of their season, the Blueshirts just weren't good enough.

"It's frustrating when you don't win," Brendan Shanahan after the game. "But it's a lot more troublesome if we were letting in six or seven goals. We are close, but close isn't going to be good enough in this conference."

Added Jaromir Jagr: "If I knew, I would change it. I have no clue. Obviously there is something missing. If there wasn't something missing we would have a better record."

All season long, it just seems like the Rangers are a man short. The top line of Martin Straka, Michael Nylander and Jaromir Jagr has played well, but Shanahan's teaming with Matt Cullen, needs another player to complete the second line. So, for the next month, the Rangers will audition players from within the organization and ultimately, may have to make a trade for a second line center.

John Dellapina of the Daily News last week reported general manager Glen Sather made the call to Philadelphia to see what it would take to get center Peter Forsberg on the Garden ice. The problem though is that there are almost 11 teams looking at the two-time Stanley Cup winner. It will take a lot and no doubt, the Flyers will be looking for a number of prospects for their captain. On the MSG broadcast, analyst Dave Maloney mentioned prospects Brandon Dubinsky and Al Montoya were in the conversation with Philadelphia, yet that's too high of a price to pay. Yes, with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, Montoya would be redundant, but Forsberg is a free agent this summer and an injury risk.

The Rangers need to find someone, who is not too old and will come at a cheap price. Coach Tom Renney said he would be traveling to Hartford during the break to see if anyone there would be worth of promotion. Maybe a spark could come from a Dubinsky or a Ryan Callahan, although the coach seems to like to have veterans in key positions.

But maybe, it could be the Rangers just need the week off. After playing a tough schedule in the first half, this week will allow them to rejuvenate the juices and put them on track for a stretch run.

"Last year when we were on a roll, there was an Olympic break," Jagr said. "When we came back, it didn't work for us. Hopefully, this year will be different."

If it isn't, changes will come by the end of February.

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