Perhaps it was an encouraging sign that Jaromir Jagr was back taking part in a full practice this morning, even looking a bit like his old self in the process. The problem is, for a player still looking to see how his left shoulder will withstand contact five months after surgery, it doesn’t look like he’s going to get much of a test from his teammates.
Jagr skated for 90 minutes. He was effective, if perhaps a little winded, during work on the team’s power play and in other drills. But when it came time for a Petr Prucha or Matt Cullen to plant the big fella into the boards, they all pulled up as if Jagr was made of glass.
Now, as far as ways to make efficient use of your practice time, I’m pretty sure re-injuring your star player on his first day back is not at the top of anyone’s list. Sure enough, when I asked Prucha about it after practice, he confirmed as much.
“Everybody knows he’s got an injury, so no one’s going to hit him,” Prucha said. “We have to wait and see that he’s OK first.”
OK, fine. But if Jagr’s going to be hit at some point, doesn’t it make sense for him to be hit in a controlled environment like practice? Don’t you want to do it here first instead of against foes like the Islanders or the Bruins?
“Definitely,” Tom Renney said. “We have to provide game-like situations in order to make that distinction. Medically he’s cleared to play, so that means he’s cleared to practice hard.”
(The team’s hope is for Jagr to play the final two preseason games, at the Islanders Friday night and then in Boston the next day. Short of that, Jagr would play just in Boston.)
So go ahead, Rangers, take your best shot. What’s the worst that can happen—that Jagr gets re-hurt and is out for the season?
Actually, on second thought, maybe just stick to passing and shooting…