Teemu Selanne was creeping up on Jaromir Jagr.
With Jagr struggling to score at the beginning of the season in his return to the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers and Selanne netting a pair of goals in a mid-October game between his Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, the Finnish Flash moved closer to the Czech legend in the record books, just seven goals shy of Jagr's career total.
But by the end of October, Jagr was on a scoring streak, picking up two goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, another against the Montreal Canadiens and two more against the Carolina Hurricanes. Suddenly Jagr was heating up again, while Selanne was the one who seemed snakebit. Selanne has scored only once in the last six games, and the distance between the two European greats has grown back to 11 goals -- 651 for Jagr to 640 for Selanne.
"I don't think about it. They are asking me if I want to know how many goals (Selanne) has scored. And if he catches me. If I had been interested in that, I would never have spent three years in Russia," said Jagr, who played for Avangard Omsk beginning in 2008. "If I had stayed here for three years, I don't think that Selanne would have any chance."
No. 68 is enjoying a scoring rebirth and his play has calmed down, too.
"Every hockey player calms down when he achieves something and scores. I hope this trend continues," Jagr said in an interview for the Czech website iDNES.cz.
A small change with Philadelphia's lines has also helped Jagr. Originally, the left wing was skating with the skilled James van Riemsdyk, but now his place has been taken by the hard-working Scott Hartnell. What's most important is that the very talented and fast Claude Giroux, who is currently the Flyers' leading scorer with 15 points, is centering Jagr's line.
At 41, Selanne is two years older than Jagr, but the great skater for the Anaheim Ducks can still keep up with the NHL pace. Both famous Europeans have an NHL contract for one season. If they are able to remain both healthy and productive, they could crack the list of the top-10 goal scorers in NHL history. Luc Robitaille, at 668 goals, currently occupies that slot, with the totals of Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694) also, perhaps, within reach if they play long enough.
While it's debatable whether Jagr or Selanne is the top European scorer of all-time, what's certain is they are both headed for elite company.