PHILADELPHIA -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma followed along with all the media reports during the summer that had Jaromir Jagr poised to return to the team he spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career with, including a pair of Stanley Cup-winning campaigns.
Bylsma said he could imagine seeing Jagr back in a Penguins uniform, and even went as far as coming up with potential line combinations.
"Of course," said Bylsma of his fantasy lineups. "You fit him in where he would fit in, what players he would play with. We certainly did that."
Those hopes, however, were dashed July 1, when Jagr opted to sign a one-year contract with the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers.
Bylsma’s first glimpse at what might have been comes Thursday, when his Penguins face the Flyers (7 p.m., NHLN-US) here at Wells Fargo Center.
The Penguins coach, however, wasn't the only player hoping Jagr would bring his prodigious talent back to the franchise that selected him with the fifth pick of the 1990 Entry Draft.
"It looked like for a couple days there, if you believe what everyone was saying in the press, it was a done deal," Craig Adams said of Jagr's return to Pittsburgh. "For sure I thought OK, what's it going to be like with him on our team. Obviously he's still a world-class player. Obviously that would have helped."
Not that the Penguins have needed much help -- they arrive for the game Thursday leading the Eastern Conference with 36 points, one more than Jagr and the Flyers.
"It's fine the way things worked out," Adams said. "We're really happy with the group we have here. We believe we have a great team."
While none of the current Penguins played with Jagr during his time in Pittsburgh -- which ended in a 2001 trade to the Washington Capitals -- there is another former Penguin with the Flyers that this current group of Pittsburgh players knows quite well.
Maxime Talbot spent his first six NHL seasons with the Penguins, and had been a part of the organization since the 2004-05 season, when he and current Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury were teammates with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. He also was teammates in the minors with Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.
Talbot's oversized personality and blue-collar work ethic made him a big fan favorite in Pittsburgh, as did the two goals he scored in the Pens' win in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.
"He's a good friend of ours," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "He's playing some good hockey. We'll have to make sure we play well against him. It'll be interesting to see him out there, for sure."
Craig Adams said it would be a bigger game for Talbot than it would for anyone on the Penguins' side.
"It's bigger for him because he knows everyone over here," Adams said. "And he's just one guy over there."
Talbot has been a nice addition in Philadelphia, with seven goals and 13 points in 26 games, numbers which nearly match the eight goals and 21 points in he had in 82 games last season.
"He's playing some good hockey," said Dupuis. "It'll be different a little bit to see him on the other side. But we see one guy on the other side, he knows everybody on our side. It'll be a different game for him than us."
Talbot's former teammates said they'll know just what to expect when they see him hop over the boards.
"We know how he is," Dupuis said. "Max is going to be Max."
"I can't imagine what he would say," added Adams. "He's pretty harmless."
While those statements were made with smiles on their faces, Adams said all the friendships get put on the backburner once the puck drops.
"All those things go out the window once the game starts," he said. "He'll be trying to win and we'll be doing the same."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK