In my long distinguished career on the Rangers beat — now at three weeks and counting — today might go down as the oddest. I knew something was awry when Cindy Adams, the longtime New York Post gossip columnist, meandered into the MSG Training Center, and sat down to watch practice. Just a hunch here, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t there to see if the Rangers are employing a new breakout.
Anyway, among the other twists:
— Yes, loyal readers, get used to Jagr, Shanahan, and Nylander as your opening night first line. The trio practiced again today, and Tom Renney said they’re almost certain to stay that way against the Capitals. A brilliant strategic move? A grievous error? I suppose we’ll see.
When I asked Renney if there is a risk in breaking up the highly successful unit of Jagr, Martin Straka, and Nylander from a season ago, the coach said perhaps, but a team gets nowhere by always playing it safe. Then again, he also allowed that line could be back together if all else fails.
— Still no official word on Jagr assuming the captaincy, although the coach did say that someone will be wearing the “C” tomorrow night. Now, we’re all assuming that Jagr will be that guy, but both the player and the coach were coy when asked about it, even allowing that tomorrow could bring a surprise. As one of my fellow writers said, this might just be “Rangers theatrics,” but it at least left the door slightly open.
— So much for the Rangers keeping Stephen Valiquette as their third goalie to start the year. The goalie was put on waivers, and after clearing, was sent to Hartford this morning. Who takes his place as the team’s 23rd man? How about…. no one? The team has decided to carry 22 players to start the year, mostly because anyone they would bring up wouldn’t play anyway.
— In a related story, the 23rd guy is actually maligned defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, who will begin the season on injured reserve, but who practiced with the team today (alongside Thomas Pock — not exactly a vote of confidence for Pock). As Renney said, Ozolinsh could be activated once he’s back into playing shape, which could be sooner rather than later.
I know, I know, a lot to discuss. I’m just glad Cindy Adams was there to chronicle it all.