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Decision on possible Jagr surgery expected soon

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jaromir Jagr tugged his shirt and rubbed
his dislocated left shoulder as he spoke of what it might take to
fix it.

About 48 hours after the New York Rangers were swept out of the
NHL playoffs, Jagr and his teammates cleaned out their lockers, had
exit interviews and underwent physicals Monday.

Jagr had an added activity, taking an MRI of the shoulder that
basically limited him to two of the four postseason losses the
Rangers endured against the New Jersey Devils. The decision of
whether the NHL's second-leader scorer would require surgery was
expected quickly.

"I saw a lot of pictures but I don't understand it," said the
34-year-old Jagr, who broke team records with 53 goals and 123
points this season.

Jagr was injured late in Game 1 -- the Rangers' first playoff
game since 1997 -- when he took a swipe with his left arm in an
attempt to hit New Jersey forward Scott Gomez late in the 6-1 loss.

He was in so much pain that even simple tasks became impossible.
Yet, he missed only one game, New York's 4-1 loss that put the
Rangers down 2-0 in the series. It was the first contest Jagr sat
out all season.

Jagr made a surprise return for Game 3 and got through another
defeat but showed none of the ability he displayed all season. He
was back on the ice three days later but was gone in 53 seconds.

He took a clean hit from defenseman Brad Lukowich, one that
typically wouldn't knock the 6-foot-3, 245-pound right winger off
his skates. But the pain in Jagr's shoulder weakened him overall
and he went into the boards with his left shoulder taking the
impact.

"It hurts a lot more than it did after the first game," Jagr
said. "I cannot really lift my arm or do anything."

If surgery is the call, Jagr wants to get it over with as
quickly as possible.

"We've got five months before the season starts," Jagr said.
"Hopefully, if there is any surgery it's not going to be
complicated and I might start practicing next month."

Although he is not usually an advocate of operations, Jagr said
he would go along with this procedure. Without it, a recurrence
next season would sideline him for three or four months.

"That is the last thing I want to do," Jagr said.

When he gets back in September for training camp, the Rangers
could look a lot different.

They have several unrestricted free agents, including defensemen
Tom Poti and Michal Rozsival, and fellow Czech forwards Martin
Rucinsky, Martin Straka and Petr Sykora.

Jagr scored or assisted on 123 of the Rangers' 250 goals and New
York will need offensive production from more places to advance
further in the playoffs.

Free agency is a way to go, but the Rangers can't rely on just
outspending clubs anymore with the salary cap now in place.

"We need some scoring and we need some defense, too," Jagr
said. "There are a lot of players around the league that see this
team is going in a different direction than before."

The Rangers won 44 games and missed out on winning the Atlantic
Division title because of a five-game losing streak to end the
season. That put them one point behind New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Coach Tom Renney put a lot of the blame on the midseason Olympic
break that came when his club was riding a six-game winning streak.
But New York, which sent eight players to Turin, never recaptured
what it had early on and went 9-11-4 upon returning.

"When you have a three- or four-week break in the season,
you're starting, I would say, from zero," Jagr said.

The Rangers' rebuilding process will resume in the fall. Jagr
might also take on the role as captain then. He turned down the
chance to replace Mark Messier this season because he felt a North
American player should hold that title.

Jagr cited his struggles with English as one reason, but he was
more open to the idea Monday after serving as part of a three-man
crew of alternates.

"I am not running from that," Jagr said. "If that happens, it
would be a big honor to me and I would feel a lot more comfortable
than if that happened a year ago."

And leadership is something he learned as a young player in
Pittsburgh, playing in the shadow of Mario Lemieux when the
Penguins won consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1990s.

He now wants to repeat the feat on Broadway.

"It's going to be my goal until I retire. I want to win the Cup
and I want to win the Cup in New York," Jagr said. "My first two
years ... there was Mario and other veterans who played with him
who kind of gave the Cup to me. It was kind of a gift to me because
I was a young guy and didn't play much.

"All my life I wanted to do that, not the same thing as
Mario, but help those other guys and be the guy to say, 'Hey guys,
this is the gift for you. I want you guys to have it because Mario
did it for me.'"