With all the pressure and praise heaped on budding star Claude Giroux heading into the Winter Classic, many predicted aging wonder Jaromir Jagr, Giroux's linemate, could be a difference-maker Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
And he might well have been, though not in the way anyone could have predicted.
Late in the first period, Jagr aggravated a groin strain he sustained on Dec. 29 in the Flyers' last game before the Winter Classic, against the Penguins. He skated only two more shifts, but was a virtual nonfactor, eventually missing the final 35 minutes.
"Last game I sprained my leg, it was a little bit (of) swelling," said Jagr, who ultimately went 10 shifts totaling 7:09. "Then, late in the first period it was getting worse and worse. I tried (to come) back, but I just couldn't skate 100 percent. I just thought, I cannot help my team."
SOG: 85 | +/-: 12
"That's what I think," Jagr said. "That's where it started hurting the most."
Jagr remained on the bench after the injury, saying: "I was hoping maybe if we got a power play I could volunteer. I just wanted to be with my teammates."
Since he kept his seat on the bench, he was on hand to see a goal by Mike Rupp that turned Philadelphia's two-goal lead into a 2-1 game. In his celebration, Rupp gave the crowd a spirited salute, which Jagr has made famous. The gesture angered some fans, but Jagr was more circumspect in his judgment.
"It's fine with me -- it's not my signature. I just do it to celebrate a goal," Jagr said. "Maybe he does it too, maybe he celebrates like that -- I don't know, he doesn't score many goals.
"We're still going to be play them three more times. And I think I'm going to score and I'm going to salute him back."
Though Jagr went on record before the game about his reluctance to play outdoors, citing a bad experience in the Kontinental Hockey League, he said the setting had nothing to do with his injury or removal from the game.
"I know I said I wasn't a fan of that, but I was wrong," Jagr said. "It was a great game, and it's just too bad we couldn't do it for our fans. That's the most disappointing thing."