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Blueshirts prep for final preseason home game

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Their training camp roster now down to 31 players, the Rangers practiced at the Madison Square Garden Training Center on Tuesday morning in preparation for Wednesday's preseason home game against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; TV: MSG).

Tuesday's practice came on the same day that the team reassigned five more players to Hartford. The group included Wolf Pack veterans Al Montoya, Lee Falardeau and Dwight Helminen, as well as Lauri Korpikoski, who joined the Pack late last season, and defenseman Martin Richter, who came over from the Czech Republic during the summer.

Meeting with reporters following Tuesday's practice, Rangers head coach Tom Renney said the cuts are all "tough decisions."

"These are kids that are really passionate about playing here and have identified with the jersey for a long time now in their short careers," Renney said. "Yet, at the same time, you've got to allow them to go somewhere where they can have success at the things we've identified as being important in their game."

Another topic of conversation with the media on Tuesday was the status of right wing Jaromir Jagr for the three remaining preseason games.

Jagr had off-season surgery on his left shoulder to repair a dislocation suffered during the 2006 playoffs. Although the shoulder is fully healed, and Jagr has complete range of motion, he was only recently cleared by the Rangers medical staff to take part in preseason games. The doctors wanted to be certain Jagr's shoulder could withstand physical contact with opposing players.

"We have to provide game-like situations for him so that we can make that distinction," said Renney. "Medically, he's cleared to play, so that means he's cleared to practice hard. ... We're designing drills that will challenge him appropriately."

Renney told reporters that Jagr would not be in the lineup for Wednesday's game against Boston but would likely play in the final preseason game on Saturday at Philadelphia and was also a possibility for Friday night's game on Long Island.

"If I felt like I could play him in both games (Friday and Saturday), I would, but I don't know if that's going to happen," said Renney. "We'll practice hard here, though, and see how he makes out. He may be ready. ... If he feels comfortable enough to play, I'd like to play him in both of the last two games. I'm certainly optimistic about the last game and a bit less so about the one before that. ... If he only plays one game, I'm OK with it."

Jagr said he felt "healthy enough to be able to play" and had no problem shooting or handling the puck. Yet he wanted to be cautious when approaching game situations, because his biggest challenge would be readjusting to full-contact hockey after not having been in that situation for some time.

"I would like to play maybe two (preseason) games," he told reporters on Tuesday. "It doesn't have to be 20 minutes. It could be maybe 10 minutes, but that's how I can feel it just to help me get my timing back. Then, in the next game I could play even more."
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