Injured Jagr likely to miss Game 3

Updated: April 25, 2006, 7:30 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jaromir Jagr cradled a coffee cup in his right hand. Doing much of anything with his left arm just hurts too much.

He moved his injured arm here and there, but nothing to suggest he's close to returning to help his struggling New York Rangers for their biggest games in nine years.

"It would have to be a miracle," Jagr said Tuesday. "But hey, I believe in miracles."

Jagr carried the Rangers into their first postseason since 1997, playing every game and breaking team records for goals and assists in his first full season on Broadway.

The Rangers are two losses away from a quick exit at the hands of the New Jersey Devils. Jagr has already missed one game and probably won't play in Game 3 on Wednesday night, either, when the Rangers return home.

Jagr acknowledges that coming back could be risky, but he would take that risk if he felt well enough to rejoin the lineup.

"Have to pray a lot," Jagr said. "If the pain lets me play a little bit, I'll be on the ice the first chance I have."

Rangers coach Tom Renney is waiting for the word -- actually two. Once Jagr tells him he can go, Renney will see if the medical staff agrees.

"We have to get to the point where he thinks he could play, and I don't think we're at that point," Renney said.

Jagr was forced to watch New York's 4-1 loss on Monday that put the Rangers in an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series. That came on the heels of a 6-1 drubbing in the opener that players and coaches called embarrassing and humiliating.

It would've been bad enough if it was merely that. But with only a few minutes left and the outcome no longer in doubt, Jagr was injured -- possibly a dislocated or separated shoulder -- while serving the rare role of penalty killer.

Without Jagr, the Rangers are lost for offense. The right winger had 54 goals and 69 assists -- leaving him just two points shy of scoring or setting up half of New York's 250 goals this season.

"He's the best player in the league," linemate Michael Nylander said. "Of course he's a major piece in the puzzle. The reality is he's not playing."

After yielding five power-play goals in the opener, the Rangers played more disciplined but still gave up another man-advantage score and two shorthanded goals in Game 2. It was 3-0 before Blair Betts scored in New York's strong third period.

By then, it was too late for a comeback.

The Rangers have dropped seven straight, including the final five of the season. That cost them the Atlantic Division title to New Jersey and dropped them to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

New York has been outscored 30-11 in the skid and managed just one goal in each of the past four losses. Three of the seven defeats have been in New Jersey, where the streak started with a 3-2 loss on April 9.

They haven't led since an April 13 loss at Pittsburgh.

While Renney was playing a hunch and switching goalies from Game 1 starter Henrik Lundqvist to backup Kevin Weekes in Game 2, the Devils just rolled along and penciled in old standby Martin Brodeur.

No matter what ails the Devils, it never affects the three-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie who has made 135 consecutive playoff starts, one shy of Patrick Roy's NHL record.

"They expect me to play and play well for them," Brodeur said. "That's my responsibility to the Devils."

And the postseason is when Brodeur is at his best. In playing over 9,000 postseason minutes, he is 86-60 with 20 shutouts and a goals-against average under 2.00.

That could be enough to get into the head of a struggling team, especially when it knows the Devils have won 13 straight games.

Either way, Renney wants his top line of Nylander, Martin Straka and Petr Sykora -- filling in for Jagr -- to work Brodeur a little harder.

"I don't think we passed any shooting chances," said Sykora, formerly of the Devils. "He just made saves. He was the difference."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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