Saturday, April 22, 2006 Updated: April 23, 2:43 PM ET
Jagr's status uncertain for Game 2 on Monday
By EJ Hradek ESPN The Magazine
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In his first playoff game as a Ranger, Jaromir Jagr, the club's de facto captain, didn't have a Mark Messier moment. In fact, Jagr didn't finish the game, leaving with an apparent injury to his left arm/shoulder with just under six minutes remaining in the club's 6-1 Game 1 loss to the rival Devils.
It'll be up to doctors, Rangers coach Tom Renney and Jagr to decide if he can play Monday.
Afterward, a dejected Jagr said he wasn't sure if he would be able to play in Game 2 on Monday night at the Continental Airlines Arena.
"I don't know right now," said Jagr, when asked about his status. "I'm gonna talk to the doctors and figure out something. I'll wait to [Sunday] and try to get ready. I know I'm gonna do everything I can to get ready to play."
Coach Tom Renney told NBC on Sunday that Jagr had "a pretty sore body" and that the Czech star is day-to-day. Renney would not say for sure whether Jagr would play in Game 2.
Jagr's injury was strange for a couple of reasons.
First, he was on the ice in a penalty-killing situation. Jagr, not known for his defensive prowess, has been called upon to kill penalties only a handful of times during the course of the season.
After the game, Rangers coach Tom Renney said he put Jagr on the ice in that situation to give him some "practice." At that time, the Rangers trailed 5-1. However, after watching his team give the Devils 13 power-play chances, Renney probably figured he might need Jagr to play in that role at some point in the series.
The other reason? Jagr's injury was self-inflicted.
Holding the puck on his stick just inside his blue line on the penalty kill, Jagr decided to try and deliver a blow to onrushing Devils forechecker Scott Gomez. Jagr, however, missed with his forearm. Gomez was able to gain control of the puck, beginning a sequence that led to Patrik Elias' second goal of the game.
"At first, I didn't know what he was doing," said Gomez, who finished the game with a goal and two assists. "Then, I realized he wanted to hit me. I think he was trying to do something like Peter Forsberg does, when he's skating fast, hits the brakes and puts his shoulder into you. But, he wasn't really moving at the time, so I could see it coming."
Throughout the third period, perhaps annoyed by the constant attention he received from the Devils, a frustrated Jagr was looking to get physical. He focused his anger on the Devils' checking line. He took a couple of chops at left wing Jay Pandolfo, who shadowed Jagr during the game, and crosschecked center John Madden into the boards from behind.
"We could see he was getting madder and madder as the game went on," Madden said. "I thought we did a good job on him. We just tried to play him honest."
When Jagr swung at Gomez, something went wrong. He looked like a big-league pitcher who hears something pop after throwing a pitch. As Gomez skated away with the puck, Jagr seemed frozen in some sort of discomfort. He flexed his left arm near the Rangers' bench. Moments later, Elias scored his goal and Jagr headed to the locker room.
In his postgame news conference, Renney said it was an "upper body injury." (For the record, didn't recently fired Leafs coach Pat Quinn invent that very phrase?)
Jagr finally met the media nearly an hour after the game. Clearly disappointed by the day's events, he still wouldn't admit to losing his cool during the game.
"It's the playoffs," Jagr said. "I did what I had to do. And what happened, happened. I'm trying to play as hard as I can until the last minute. In a playoff series, every shift can mean a little later on."
Jagr is certainly right about that. His's move action on his last shift of the game could dramatically impact his team's playoff hopes. If his injury keeps him on the sidelines, the Rangers' feel-good season will be coming to an end very soon.
EJ Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com. Also, click here to send EJ a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.