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|12 октября 2006
Kaspar the angry ghost // NY Post
Injured and frustrated.
After sitting out the first three games of the season, Darius Kasparaitis finally reached his boiling point.
There is a chance he'll dress tonight against the Penguins, be it an outside one, but Kasparaitis stormed away from reporters yesterday in order to compose himself behind closed doors when discussing his level of frustration in missing games.
Tom Renney could be in danger of mentally losing his most physical defenseman, and in mid-sentence yesterday, Kasparaitis needed to excuse himself before potentially saying something that could have jeopardized the coach's willingness to put him in the lineup.
When asked if it was getting more and more frustrating to sit with each game, Kasparaitis said, "I don't know, really. I just try to be positive and work hard and think about my teammates, at least . . ." and then he was off and running. He disappeared into the players-only hallway outside the dressing room and privately peeled off his practice gear.
Renney said he will "have to defer until [this] morning" a decision on Kasparaitis, whose conditioning level is not up to par following summertime groin and shoulder surgeries, in the coach's estimation.
"I don't have a gun to my head or anything like that," Renney said in response to whether he'll make any roster changes after Tuesday's no-show performance against the Flyers. "I'm going to make a decision that's based on sensible information and I'll do whatever I think is right."
Tuesday's lethargic 4-2 loss was painful to watch, but it was even more excruciating for Kasparaitis, a player known for setting a physical tone with his crushing checks.
"When you're injured or you don't play, you always think you can make a difference," Kasparaitis said. "Of course, when you watch a game like that, you want to be there, maybe make a big hit or I don't know, just feel like you can do something, you know, impossible."
Kasparaitis, who will be required by Renney to pass an endurance test before he's cleared to play, stopped short of saying anything damning. He did return after cooling off and made no secret of his desire to get back in uniform.
"The best test is you just go and play and see where you're at," Kasparaitis said. "But whatever happens, happens. I'm just trying to work hard, stay positive . . . and whenever they decide, I'll be ready to play."
BY COLIN STEPHENSON
NEW YORK -- Darius Kasparaitis acknowledged he hasn't been his normal loud, obnoxious self in the Rangers' locker room the past week or so.
"It's a stressful time of the preseason. We're still fighting for jobs and I felt a little sore in my groin area and I was kind of frustrated," he said. "But you just have to be patient and be positive. That's the most important thing: You have to be positive and know that good things are going to happen. And I think I'm going in the right direction."
The 14-year veteran, who served as one of three alternate captains last season, underwent two surgeries in the off-season -- one to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and another to fix a torn oblique muscle -- and a divorce. And while coach Tom Renney was aware of all that, he still felt the need to pull Kasparaitis aside before the team's trip to Puerto Rico last weekend and tell the hard-hitting defenseman he needed to pick up his play or he was in danger of losing his job.
"He said he doesn't want to be the guy that's going to give my job to somebody else," Kasparaitis recalled of that talk with Renney. "You realize that I just have to work harder."
Kasparaitis said he was upset to hear that from Renney, considering all he had gone through, but he had little alternative but to consider the notion that perhaps he wasn't working hard enough.
So after not playing in Saturday's exhibition against Florida in Puerto Rico, Kasparaitis was eager to show all he could do last night in the Rangers' preseason game at the Garden against the rival New York Islanders. He showed how eager on his first shift, when he drilled Viktor Kozlov into the boards, and he reinforced it with a big open-ice hit on Miroslav Satan in the second period.
Kasparaitis had said after the morning skate that his abdomen/groin is feeling better every day. And even before he landed his two crowd-pleasing hits, Renney had expressed confidence that Kasparaitis would be able to pick up his play in the final week of the preseason and re-establish his place among the team's top six defensemen.
"I have faith in Darius," Renney said. "I think he will do that, because he has the best intentions of anybody we have here. What he has to fight through is he has some psychological baggage, with the injuries and surgery and whatnot."
"I know I have to play hard," Kasparaitis said. "I know that I have to battle -- I'm fighting for the job. I have to do what I can do.
"It's a little bit weird (having to fight for a job), but nobody's safe. You can't be satisfied with your career. It doesn't matter how much you've played -- every year is a new year, every year, you've got new guys coming in and trying to get the job away from you and you have to prove that you belong here. And any game you play, you've got to play hard."
Darius doing a lot of healing
BY JOHN DELLAPINA
Judging by the number of column inches it commanded and the amount of air time devoted to it, Darius Kasparaitis' physical breakdown rated somewhere between the booing of Sandis Ozolinsh and the back-to-back scheduling of Games 4 and 5 on the causes for the Rangers' ultimate demise.
Certainly it wasn't nearly as significant as Jaromir Jagr's shoulder-separating swipe or Henrik Lundqvist's bad groin and teeth-grinding woes. However, his barely visible statistical contributions notwithstanding, Kasparaitis was one of the most important Rangers last season - as much for his comic bombast in the dressing room as his body-bombing of opposing forwards on the ice.
Which is why Kasparaitis' struggles so far in this preseason, though similarly dwarfed by concerns about Jagr's shoulder, are hardly insignificant just a week before Opening Night.
"He's coming," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "He's had some pretty serious surgeries this summer. And it's taken its time."
The more serious of the two procedures was performed to repair the groin muscle tear that knocked Kasparaitis out of 12 of the Rangers' last 14 regular-season games and then allowed him to play only gingerly in two of their four playoff games. The operation, during which doctors implanted a patch of wire mesh to mend and strengthen the torn muscle, wasn't performed until mid-June because rest and rehab were attempted first.
Kasparaitis also underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in early May. And a consequence of the two procedures was that Kasparaitis couldn't really train hard until just before training camp opened.
Throw in a divorce from his second wife, and the normally happy-go-lucky Kasparaitis did not have a fun summer.
"I couldn't do anything for almost three months," Kasparaitis said. "It took a long time to recover and rehab. Now, I've got to get back in game shape."
Renney has little doubt that Kasparaitis will work himself back into the proper condition. But what had Renney even more concerned was his sense that Kasparaitis had a bit of a mental block about pushing his repaired groin.
"He needs to know that it might even be stronger than it ever was, so 'Go play,'" Renney said. "And that's what he's got to do. He's got to really push himself in order to play the kind of game he needs to play to secure a spot. I talked to him about this: There are people here nipping at your heels. So pick it up a notch."
Kasparaitis reacted to that the way he has to most challenges throughout his improbable career, one that has been built upon fearless physicality from a defenseman who is hardly physically imposing.
"I feel better every day," he said. "I just need mental support from the coaching staff and I'll be fine. They told me, not 'wake up,' but 'work harder and try to push yourself over the hump.' When you have guys like that backing you up, I'll be fine."