2007-03-02 / Sports

New Rangers Arrival Mara Hopes To Fit In

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK - With their history of getting the big name and with the flurry of high profile players that changed hands around the NHL on Tuesday, it would have been reasonable to assume the New York Rangers made a splash at the trading deadline.

But, no All-Stars, Hall of Famers or even top liners came to Broadway. Instead, general manager Glen Sather snapped up a puck moving defenseman from the Bruins named Paul Mara.

"He's a big body and is a strong guy," said Rangers coach Tom Renney of the 6-4, 219 lbs. Mara. "He has attributes that can help on our team. He helps our power play because he has a great shot. We made the deal for a reason, so I think he can help us."

Flight delays prevented Mara from helping the Rangers on Tuesday - they didn't need him anyway in their 4-0 win - but he adds a dimension on defense, which he hopes will remind the Garden faithful of another Blushirt blueliner.

"I grew up watching the Rangers in Boston," Mara said. "Brian Leetch was one of my idols growing up and I try to emulate the way he played."

Although Aaron Ward's locker room problems made it tough to get a lot for him, the Rangers did well for themselves in the one-for-one swap. Mara, 27, is six and a half years younger than Ward and has a better offensive resume to draw from. This season he has three goals and 15 assists, but with the Ranger offensive firepower, those numbers should improve.

"[In Boston], we knew this team had a high powered offense," Mara thought. "Trying to deal with them was a nightmare every night and that was the goal of every team coming in. It's a high offense here and it's tough to stop."

Expect Renney to use Mara as a pointman on the powerplay and his lefthanded shot also evens out the defensive pairings, which was becoming a problem for the righthanded Ward. Also, he comes to New York with a clean slate. So by removing Ward, who fought with teammates, the dressing room harmony improves.

And that's something big for the Rangers, who need all the serenity they can get in trying to make the playoffs over the final month of the season.

As for Mara, he's just looking to help out. "I was shocked at first, but real excited to be part of it. The Rangers are one of the classiest organizations in pro sports.

The history is here, so now I am just trying to help this team win." If he does and the Rangers make the playoffs, then this trade would have to be considered a success.

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