The real youth movement…

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A late night has turned into an early morning for yours truly. I’m suddenly discovering one downside to a dual existence of hockey writer and father of a 16-month-old: You may care that I was there to chronicle the Rangers’ solid effort in their preseason home opener last night. But at 5:30 a.m., all my little guy cares about is that breakfast is on the way.

Which brings me to Matt Cullen, goal-scorer from last night, father of a week-old son, and subject of “my story in today’s paper”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060921/SPORTS01/609210352/1046/SPORTS. I don’t envy anyone who has to leave his wife and newborn son in Minnesota to hop on a plane to New York, even if it’s to make a living as a professional hockey player. But as I suggested to the free-agent signee yesterday, and he quickly agreed, at least he’s getting a full night’s sleep until his family joins him in a couple of weeks.

“As far as the times to be gone, this could probably be the best,” he said.

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Carolina Hurricanes

Incidentally, Cullen named his son Brooks. Since the forward hails from Minnesota, I had to ask the obvious question: “As in Herb?”

Cullen laughed.

“Not completely,” he said, before adding: “Maybe a little bit.”

Anyway, the larger question is where Cullen fits in on the Rangers. If last night was any indication, my guess is on the second unit alongside Petr Prucha and Brendan Shanahan (assuming Jaromir Jagr is back to start the season). Perhaps more importantly, he has experience playing the point on the power play, which, if he’s effective, might be the final nail in the Brian Leetch saga.

Speaking of Jagr, I suppose every game that the big fella is not in the lineup is cause for further concern, but my read on it is the Rangers are just being overly cautious (we’ll know the lineup for Puerto Rico shortly, but Tom Renney said yesterday that Jagr will likely not be going). We’ve seen him every day in practice and he looks plenty strong. But since there are questions about how his shoulder will hold up under duress, the team is moving deliberately.

Maybe that will stall his progress to start the year. But my guess — and tell me if you disagree — is that no one cares about how Jagr plays in September or October as much as they care about him in March and April.

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