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Goal-starved Jagr finding other ways to help out

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More complete player
Michael Traikos, National Post
Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A year after Jaromir Jagr finished second in league scoring with 54 goals, it seems as if the Rangers forward is struggling to put the puck in the net.

Jagr might just be one goal away from passing Bobby Hull for 13th place on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list -- they both have 610 for their career --but he has scored just 19 times in 50 games this season.

His team is not worried. Instead, assistant coach Mike Pelino said that the 34-year-old Jagr has developed into a more complete and unselfish player this season.

"When you add that up to his production last year -- setting the Rangers' record with 54 goals -- it seems like he's struggling," Pelino said.

"But we're actually really pleased with his leadership and with how he's made our other players better."

Jagr is finding other ways to contribute.

He enters tonight's game against the Maple Leafs among the league leaders in assists (42) and points (61) and is a plus-12 on the season. But for a player who needed just 50 games to score 30 goals last season, his lack of firepower is concerning.

Pelino believes off-season shoulder surgery, the signing of sniper Brendan Shanahan and some unlucky bounces are to blame for Jagr's goal-scoring woes.

"It's a case where Jaromir's been hit with a few -- I don't want to say bad luck -- but things just haven't fallen in place with him this year," said Pelino. "It's taken his game awhile to get to where he's really comfortable and it's still not there. And saying that, he's been a real force for us, it's just that the puck doesn't seem to want to go in the net as much."

The simple explanation may be that Jagr, who usually takes more shots than anyone else in the league, is passing the puck more. Once the triggerman in all offensive situations, the Czech star has developed into a playmaker.

This season, he has taken 23 fewer shots than teammate Shanahan, who leads the team with 25 goals.

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