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Jagr to make debut for Rangers tonight

OTTAWA -- Jaromir Jagr pulled a white New York Rangers
jersey with his signature No. 68 over his head, and captain Mark Messier beamed.

"Oh, yeah, looks good," Messier said as he flashed a big
smile. "Very good."

"I hope it's the last sweater," Jagr said as photographers and
cameramen maneuvered to capture the photo opportunity that
punctuated Saturday's news conference at the Corel Centre, where
the Rangers' latest star acqusition was introduced.

Flanked by alternate captains Eric Lindros and Brian Leetch,
Messier and Jagr appeared equally excited that the five-time NHL
scoring leader was finally with New York.

Jagr's long-rumored trade from Washington was completed Friday
in a deal that sent Anson Carter to the Capitals.

"I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like changes," Jagr said.
"I'm happy where I stay. But, the way I see it, in Washington they
decided to trade me. I'm glad I'm somewhere they want me, and I'm
going to have a chance to prove to the world that I'm still a good
player."

The league MVP with Pittsburgh in 1999, Jagr failed to live up
to expectations with the Capitals. Washington acquired Jagr after
he won his fourth consecutive scoring title with the Penguins in
2001.

Jagr had 201 points in 190 games with Washington, including 16
goals and 29 assists in 46 games this season.

"There have been expectations on him for 11 years," said
forward Matthew Barnaby, one of several Rangers who previously
played with Jagr. "He's always been expected to do a lot of good
things.

"Even though everyone thinks he's been having a bad season by
his standards, it's a very good season by everyone else's
standards. He averages a point a game, and in a time when scoring's
down, he's done very well."

With Pavel Bure sidelined due to a career-threatening knee
injury, Rangers fans hope the addition of Jagr to an already
star-studded lineup will end a franchise-record six-year playoff
drought.

"We're excited," said Glen Sather, the Rangers president,
general manager and coach. "We just hope he excites everyone else
and gets us in the playoffs."

Aware of the heightened expectations, Messier tried to lighten
Jagr's burden before the Czech star made his debut with the Rangers
against Ottawa on Saturday night.

"Coming to play on the biggest stage in the world doesn't come
without pressure," Messier said. "Obviously, he's picked up a lot
of the pressure that the team's endured over the last five or six
years, but speaking from experience, no one player can do it
alone."

Jagr will be teamed with fellow Czechs Petr Nedved and Jan
Hlavac against the Senators, Sather said.

In two seasons with Pittsburgh from 1995-97, Nedved was paired
with Jagr frequently.

"It seems like back then we had some chemistry going, so
hopefully, we can establish the same thing and have the same
chemistry and play well," Nedved said.

The Rangers, losers of three straight and winless in five, enter
Saturday's game in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, four
points behind the New York Islanders in the race for the eighth and
final playoff spot.

"The expectations are always high in New York, and for good
reason, because we have a lot of great players here," Nedved said.
"There are probably going to be even more expectations and more
pressure now that Jaromir's here, so we've just got to get down to
business and start winning some hockey games."