The New York Rangers figured signing Scott Gomez away from the rival New Jersey Devils would only make them better. That, however, hasn't come close to reality in the early part of the season.
Gomez faces his former team for the first time Thursday night as the punchless Rangers try to end a four-game skid in their first meeting this season against New Jersey.
The Rangers made the biggest splash in the free-agent market, signing Gomez and fellow center Chris Drury to long-term deals on July 1. Gomez signed a seven-year, $51.5 million contract after spending his first seven NHL seasons across the river with New Jersey.
Never a big-time goal scorer, Gomez has been one of the league's best playmakers and was coming off a 47-assist season for the defense-first Devils in 2006-07. The speedy center figured to hit a career high in assists playing in New York with 600-goal scorers Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan.
While there's still plenty of season left, Gomez hasn't made much of an impact with his new team so far. He is tied for the team lead with two goals but only has one assist in eight games, contributing to the Rangers' disappointing 2-5-1 start.
Despite a wealth of offensive talent, the Rangers have scored a league-low 13 goals, getting shut out three times already.
With one goal in eight games, Jagr is off to the worst start of his 17-year career.
"Everybody says that you have to shoot more. I don't think that's the answer," Jagr said. "It's not 1980. You can't score from the red line. To score in this league, you have to have very good chances. Goaltenders are too good and defenses now aren't going to give you chances."
The Rangers haven't scored so few goals in their first eight games since they had nine in 1950, when they were shut out three times in a row.
"It's going to come. You've got to believe," Jagr said. "There's nothing else to do; you can't do anything else."
New York was on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss for the second consecutive game, falling at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Rangers have lost back-to-back 1-0 games for the first time since they entered the NHL in 1926. They have gone 181 minutes, nine seconds without an even-strength goal since Jagr scored during a 3-1 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 13.
The only good news for the Rangers has been the outstanding play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has two wins in eight starts despite a stellar 2.00 goals-against average.
"Your heart just goes out to him," said Drury, who has one goal. "Hopefully he hangs in there and keeps making saves for us. We owe him a lot of goals."
A victory Thursday would give the Devils (3-4-1) a respectable record on their season-opening nine-game road trip. They are scheduled to play their first game in their new home - the Prudential Center - on Saturday against Ottawa.
New Jersey also has had trouble scoring with 21 goals in eight games. It has been shut out twice while managing six goals in its four losses.
The Devils scored twice in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit, but Bill Guerin's power-play goal with 3.7 seconds left lifted the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory Saturday.
"We keep digging a hole," right wing Brian Gionta said. "We tried to dig out of it. We have to straighten that up."
Backup Kevin Weekes started Saturday, meaning Martin Brodeur will be back in net for this game looking to improve his very uncharacteristic 3.51 GAA.
Brodeur is 38-15-1 with 15 ties, seven shutouts and a 2.07 GAA lifetime against the Rangers. His 38 wins against the two New York-area teams are tied for his most versus any opponent.
The Devils went 5-2-1 against the Rangers last season, winning the final four meetings - all by one goal.