Monday, February 25, 2008

Rangers Rebounding | Slats Won’t Trade Jagr

They’re heating up.

Just days after a demoralizing loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Rangers got another 5-0 lead and this time held on to it against the Florida Panthers Sunday night.

Henrik Lundqvist got his career-high eighth shutout by stopping 23 shots. Since signing a six-year extension on February 12 he has allowed 10 goals in just 5 games while backstopping the Rangers to a 4-0-1 record.

Lundqvist isn’t the only one starting to get hot these days, Jaromir Jagr and his new linemates are playing better than they have all season. While Hank was inking his $41.25 million extension, Tom Renney moved the 21-year-old Brandon Dubinsky off the third-line to play on Jagr’s line. The move is paying off in a big way so far as the pair along with Sean Avery have combined for 21 points during the last five games.

With the goal that put the Rangers up 3-0 Sunday, Jagr scored in back-to-back games for the first time since December 30, 2007. He also assisted on four goals during the debacle last Tuesday February 19 that was the game against Montreal.

Aside from the offensive production this has been the most physical top line the Rangers have had since the days of Mark Messier. Dubinsky has been involved in a few scraps this week and both he and Avery were seen retaliating against Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta after his more than questionable hit on Paul Mara Saturday night.

With Dubinsky skating on the top line, the Rangers have $85 million worth of depth. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are skating on the second and third lines respectively and are also adding to the recent success. Since they each took a step back on the depth chart the pair has 12 points combined including a game-winning-goal each.

Since the recent success, or perhaps in spite of it, GM Glen Sather has announced that he will not be trading 36-year-old Jagr.

“If I was to ask him to leave, he might say yes. But I don’t plan on talking to him about that (trade),” Sather told the Edmonton Journal. “Trade Jagr? Nobody’s called me on him. Why would I want to do that?”

Sather even went so far as telling reporters that he wanted to bring back Jagr for the 2008/09 season.

“Jagr is still the best player on our team,” said Sather. “He’s got two guys all over him most nights and he still draws lots of attention. I absolutely want him back next year,”

Jagr’s contract is up at the end of the season and he will be an unrestricted free-agent on July 1. The Rangers pay only $4.9 million worth of his $8.4 salary this season. The Washington Capitals pay the rest.

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