- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) It didn't take long for Eric Lindros to absorb his first questionable hit in a New York Rangers jersey.
When you've been out of the NHL for more than a year, when your history of concussions is better known than your goal total, when your squabbles with management have been followed like a soap opera, when you're a 6-foot-4, 236-pound freight train on skates, you become quite a target.
But when New York Islanders goalie Garth Snow went out of his way to get a piece of Lindros in a preseason game, his new Rangers teammates were right there to back him up.
Theo Fleury, making a comeback of his own from substance abuse, was one New Yorker who didn't stand for it.
"It was a physical game and they were going after Eric," Fleury said. "Obviously, as a team, we need to be prepared for that. We're not going to be pushed around by anybody. I think we showed that."
Lindros is his linemate, and the pair will need for each other to be at the top of their games if the Rangers are to return to the playoffs after a four-year absence.
"We're both looking to bounce back and play well and help the team," Lindros said.
Lindros, a former NHL MVP, came to the Rangers in an unpopular trade from the Flyers in August. The deal finally ended a bitter relationship with Philadelphia general manager Bob Clarke that kept Lindros out of the NHL for 16 months.
The hulking center, with 290 career goals, hasn't played a meaningful game since sustaining his sixth concussion during Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey, when Lindros was felled by Scott Stevens.
"Eric has an appreciation for what you have to go through with these injuries," goalie Mike Richter said. "It's very difficult to be on the sidelines watching your team play, trying to come back, the frustration of not being able to fill your own expectations when you do come back."
But now he is back and expected to center a top line in New York, featuring Fleury on right wing.
"I don't think it's a big deal," Lindros said. "Theo's been in the league a long time, he knows how to play the game. He knows what it takes. I think it will just be great to see Theo's face smiling and feeling good about himself."
Fleury, a 14-year veteran, was able to be happy for most of last season his second with New York but it didn't last.
After a dismal 1999-00 campaign that saw Fleury, a former 50-goal scorer, record career lows in a full season of 15 goals and 74 points, the fiery forward rebounded to have 30 goals and 74 points in his first 62 games.
But then the stunning announcement came on Feb. 28: Fleury checked into a drug rehab center for treatment and wouldn't return. For his third straight season with the Rangers, he is facing questions.
"Do I have something to prove? Absolutely. I think it's more, I need to prove to myself now," said Fleury, who still managed to be New York's third-leading scorer last season.
Meshing with Lindros, who could be one hit away from a career-ending injury, is the first order of business.
"I think it's just a matter of finding some chemistry between the two of us," Fleury said. "I think we've done it in the preseason and played fairly well together… . We're both skill players. Our styles are a little bit different but we'll see what happens. It's the makings of a good tandem, that's for sure."

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