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Rangers' Shanahan weighs 20th season in NHL

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brendan Shanahan is leaning toward
returning for a 20th NHL season, and wants to stay with the
New York Rangers.

Sporting a clean-shaven face and full-toothed smile, the
38-year-old forward spoke Tuesday after his end-of-season
interviews with New York general manager Glen Sather and coach Tom
Renney.

He hasn't come to a final decision whether to continue his
surefire Hall of Fame career, but that is the direction his mind
has taken him.

"My instincts are that I will probably play, but it's something
that I'm going to think over," he said in front of dressing room
stalls full of practice gear no longer needed this season. "As far
as playing and coming here this year and being part of the Rangers,
there's nowhere else I'd rather play."

Shanahan can become an unrestricted free agent for the second
straight summer. A year ago, Sather and the Rangers lured him away
from the Detroit Red Wings with a one-year, $4 million deal. In his
short time with the Rangers, he provided the perfect contrast to
the leadership style of first-year captain Jaromir Jagr, who tends
to set examples with his play instead of his voice.

There is no question Jagr wants Shanahan back with the Rangers
next season when they try to move further than the second-round
playoff ouster they endured last weekend.

"We never really played together on the ice, but off the ice,
he makes it a lot easier for me," Jagr said. "He gives me more
time to concentrate on myself on the ice. That's huge. You know,
it's not easy to be a captain. You cannot just look at for
yourself, how you play, but make sure the system is right, and make
sure everybody does what they're supposed to do."

"My instincts are that I will probably play, but it's something that I'm going to think over."
-- Brendan Shanahan

Shanahan and Jagr's linemate Michael Nylander are New York's
biggest unrestricted free agents.

"Of course we want to sign those guys," Jagr said. "I think
the guys like to play here. That's important. They both know we've
got a good enough team to do it. We are able to go very far in the
playoffs. We're missing something. Maybe next year is going to be
different."

Jagr already promised it would be for him.

After fighting to regain his strength following a devastating
shoulder injury in last year's playoffs that required offseason
surgery, Jagr is finally able to build up his muscles. He posted
Rangers records with 54 goals and 123 points last season, only to
drop -- by his lofty standards -- to 30 goals and 66 assists this
year.

"The last two months, the muscles started building up again,
and I could feel it a lot better," he said. "I lost a lot of
muscle, especially in my upper body, especially on the shoulder.
And no matter how hard I worked, it looked like nothing was
happening. And the last three months, the last two months, it was
getting bigger and bigger every day.

"This is the first time in the last two years it's going to
have time to work during the summer. I think I can be better than I
was last year, or maybe the year before that. I'm going to make
sure I'm going to be the best player I've ever been."

Sean Avery, a restricted free agent, also wants to return to the
Rangers. He was a difference-maker in New York's first-round sweep
of Atlanta, but was kept off the scoresheet in the six-game series
loss to Buffalo.

The Sabres didn't react as much to his agitating game, and Avery
couldn't get under the skin of Buffalo's forwards as effectively as
he had against the Thrashers. But his style and energy provided a
key energy boost to the Rangers' late drive to the playoffs.

"I feel like I finally found a home and somewhere where maybe I
fit in," said Avery, acquired from Los Angeles in February. "I'm
still a little disappointed, but looking to the future, it's
somewhere I would like to be for a long time, for sure."

He might need surgery to repair his left wrist, but wasn't about
to blame the injury for a performance he felt was subpar. That
didn't stop him from taking shots at Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who disclosed ailments after their
teams were eliminated from the playoffs.

"I think that's just something you battle through," Avery
said. "Those [excuses] are for guys like Sidney [Crosby] and guys
that have to keep themselves in the media, saying they weren't hurt
or they were hurt. I love when guys are done and say they were hurt
or they had the flu.

"Roberto Luongo ... he had the flu now? It's a big mystery why
he was late for overtime. It's fine. You battle through things."