Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 10/07/13 at 04:33 AM ET
Jaromir Jagr missed the New Jersey Devils' preseason with what was probably a groin injury, and his performances in his first two regular season games involved a single shot taken in 15:40 played against Pittsurgh last Thursday (the Devils lost 3-0) and a -2 and a shot in 13:40 played against the Islanders on Friday (the Devils lost 4-3 in a shootout).
The New York Times' Pat Hickens reports that Jagr was also demoted during Friday night's game, and while it's early--very early--Hickens wonders aloud whether an incredibly short summer (thanks to Jagr's foray into late June with the Cup-finalist Bruins) and a preseason-less campaign have yielded simply a backfire or two from the revving engine of an "Old Warhorse," or perhaps something more ominous:
“It’s tough,” [Devils coach Pete] DeBoer said after Friday night’s loss. “He didn’t play any exhibition games, he missed all of training camp. He gave us some strong shifts in the overtime and down the stretch.”
While he is not the same player who won five Art Ross trophies as the league’s leading point scorer and who was selected for nine All-Star teams, Jagr showed flashes of brilliance Friday. He still glides smoothly and strongly on his skates and still commands a defender when he has the puck. He nearly picked up his first point in the first period Friday, setting up [Ryane] Clowe at the goal mouth, but Clowe’s shot hit the post.
It could be a mistake to count him out. Jagr played an integral role in helping Boston win the Eastern Conference just four months ago, although he scored no goals in the playoffs. The Devils have a keen awareness of what they will get simply from having him in the dressing room.
“He’s a quality hockey player, even at his age,” said Brodeur, who is also 41. “He’s not just a superstar, he’s one of the best players to play the game in my book, in my era.”
Brodeur added, “For the guys, even in the middle of their careers, to play with a guy like that, it’s like bringing in Wayne Gretzky; it’s like bringing in Mario Lemieux.”
Pittsburgh selected Jagr 15 picks ahead of Brodeur in the first round of the 1990 N.H.L. entry draft, and Brodeur cites an extra benefit from Jagr’s presence.
“I’m not the oldest guy on the team anymore,” he said.
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