Jaromir Jagr, who was honored by fellow NHL players with the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league's MVP in 2005-06, is expected to make his preseason debut for the Rangers tonight against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Head coach Tom Renney told reporters following today's morning skate at the Madison Square Garden Training Center that Jagr was "a go" for tonight's game against the Islanders after missing the first five preseason games due to off-season surgery on his left shoulder.
If he plays tonight, Jagr's preseason would begin in the same arena where he passed Jean Ratelle to become the Rangers' all-time single-season scoring record last March. Jagr finished the 2005-06 season with 123 points, second only to league scoring leader Joe Thornton. His 54 goals last season were also a Rangers record.
Renney said Jagr is slated to play right wing on a line with Michael Nylander and Brendan Shanahan tonight on Long Island. Nylander was Jagr's center for much of last season, while left wing Shanahan joined the Rangers as a free agent in July.
Martin Straka, who played left wing alongside Nylander and Jagr last season, is not in the lineup for tonight's preseason game.
"We'll try him (Jagr) with Brendan tonight," said Renney. "It gives us at least a semblance of a power play unit, so playing some five-on-five may give them a chance to instinctively work off each other."
Renney also said that no decision had been made on whether the versatile Shanahan would open the season on the right or left side. In his first few preseason games, Shanahan played right wing.
"I'm not sure where we'll put him (Shanahan) to open the season," said Renney. "Obviously, he can play both. We'll have a look at him on that side tonight with those people and see how it goes."
Shanahan has played on a line with Jagr only once in his NHL career. That was in the 1996 NHL All-Star Game at Boston, when fans voted both players into the starting lineup for the victorious Eastern Conference team. After the first shift, however, Jagr and Mario Lemieux were reunited with their Pittsburgh teammate Ron Francis, while Shanahan moved onto a line with Pierre Turgeon and Cam Neely.
"I got voted to start that game, which was a little unfair since he (Jagr) and Mario and Ronnie (Francis) were 1-2-3 in scoring that season," said Shanahan. "I just hope to get to the second shift this time."
Jagr said he welcomed the opportunity to play with Shanahan in tonight's game. Both players are closing in on their 600th career NHL goals.
"I guess the coaches want to find out if we can play together," said Jagr. "They already know I can play with Marty, so if I can play with Brendan there are more options."
Shanahan said he was also looking forward to having Jagr as a linemate tonight, but would be happy playing with anyone on this year's Rangers team.
"I said to Tom (Renney) from the beginning that I want to play in a position or on a line that helps the team the most," said Shanahan. "If that's at right wing or if it's on a second line or checking line is fine if it helps the team, because I came here to win hockey games. But when you think of your ideal scenario, playing with Jaromir is pretty good."