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Original Issue

20 New York Rangers

So much of the Rangers' future is tied up in their acquisition
of Eric Lindros that general manager Glen Sather, a thoughtful
man of 58, has been characterizing the deal as a symbol of his
larger philosophies. "You can be a lion maybe once in your life,
but if you don't make this deal, you're a mouse forever," he
mused just after acquiring Lindros from the Flyers in late
August. Then at training camp Sather reflected, "The biggest
chance you can take is not taking a chance at all."

The measure of this risk lies not only in the well-documented
precariousness of Lindros's health (he suffered six concussions
between March 1998 and May 2000, the last time he played in an
NHL game before this preseason), but also in the high stakes at
hand. Lindros is being asked to enter a hostile environment--most
Rangers fans strongly opposed the acquisition--and to resurrect a
gasping franchise that has missed the playoffs for four straight

Consider the benefits if Lindros is the physical offensive force
he was in the mid- and late 1990s: Creative center Petr Nedved
would no longer face opposing teams' ace checkers; Mark Messier,
40, could scale back his playing time and preserve his
aging-but-still-able body for crucial spots; center Mike York,
the Rangers' best two-way forward, could be moved to wing, where
New York desperately needs help; and diminutive right wing Theo
Fleury, Lindros's preseason linemate, could thrive in the open
spaces created by Lindros's barreling 6'4", 236-pound frame.

If Lindros goes down, however, the Rangers will suddenly be three
steps back from where they stood at the end of last year's dismal
33-43-5-1 season. In surrendering top-line winger Jan Hlavac,
solid defenseman Kim Johnsson and touted right wing prospect
Pavel Brendl for Lindros, Sather weakened his depth on the ice
and at the trade table.

New York is particularly vulnerable on defense, where Brian
Leetch's supporting cast is made up of journeymen, and in goal,
where Mike Richter, 35, is attempting to rebound from a torn
right ACL. Coach Ron Low has thus pledged to employ a more
careful defensive style than the gambling version he relied on
last season. "If we're going to err, I'd rather err on the side
of caution," Low says. That's a reasonable hockey philosophy,
perhaps, but not one recently espoused by Low's boss.



Fast Fact

Twenty-four onetime Rangers have scored 50 or more goals in a
season. Only two, Adam Graves and Vic Hadfield, did so while
playing for New York.


FORWARDS 11 Healthy Fleury, Lindros boost Messier's
DEFENSE 22 Newcomers Karpa and Ulanov add toughness
GOALTENDING 26 Can Richter come back? Blackburn top prospect
SPECIAL TEAMS 8 Skill level high; Leetch still a fine
power-play QB
MANAGEMENT 21 G.M. Sather got Lindros cheap, sparked