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RANGERS FIRE ESPOSITO AS COACH, GM, VP

Now that he's out of work, Phil Esposito - fired suddenly by the New York Rangers - may have a future as a fortune teller.

"I told my wife this morning when I left, `I may be home without a job.' I'm pretty intuitive," Esposito said Wednesday after the Rangers cleaned house by dismissing him as their coach, general manager and vice president.The firing came less than two months after Esposito received a vote of confidence from Madison Square Garden Sports Group, which owns the team. The ownership backed Esposito when he fired Michel Bergeron on April 1, the final blow-up in a power struggle between the two.

The Rangers never won again after the firing, losing their last two regular season games and four straight to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But both Esposito and Garden executives said the firing didn't cost him the job.

"If I hadn't fired him, I think we would have both been fired now," Esposito said. "I don't think we would have won in the first round anyway."

Esposito, whose regime included the Rangers' first non-playoff season in 12 years, said the firing left him "in some ways relieved, in other ways frustrated."

Esposito, 47, had one year remaining on his $240,000-a-year contract, which ownership cited as a problem in hiring a coach for next season. Management also mentioned the team's continuing quest for a Stanley Cup; the last one came in 1940.