Jaromir Jagr looked up to Mario Lemieux during the early years of his career, when the two were teammates with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He's still looking up at Lemieux on the NHL's all-time scoring list, but that could change Tuesday.
Jagr enters the New Jersey Devils' afternoon game against the Penguins at Prudential Center (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA) eighth on the all-time scoring list with 1,722 points, one fewer than Lemieux totaled during his Hall of Fame career. Tying or surpassing Lemieux would be a nice way to end 2013, but Jagr contends that winning, not individual achievements, is foremost on his mind.
"Right now I'm not thinking about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," he told the (Newark) Star-Ledger on Monday. "My job is obviously to score goals and help our team offensively, so the more I do it the better chances the team is going to win."
Jagr tied Lemieux's career goal total of 690 on Nov. 21 when he scored in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings and passed him six nights later when he scored against the Carolina Hurricanes. Jagr enters Tuesday with 694 goals, tying him with Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time list.
Goal No. 694 came Dec. 22, part of a three-point night in a 5-4 overtime win against the Washington Capitals.
"He amazes me every night we come to the rink," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said after that game. "I don't have a lot more adjectives to describe him. He's a pleasure to work with."
One difference between Jagr and Lemieux is the number of games they needed to accumulate their points. Lemieux, who was plagued by injuries and illness during his career, got 1,723 points in 915 games. When Jagr steps on the ice Tuesday, he'll be playing in his 1,432nd regular-season game.
Jagr had a pair of goals the last time the Penguins came to New Jersey, a 4-1 victory Nov. 16. He leads the Devils in goals (13), points (34) and plus/minus (plus-11). He's also tops on the team with four game-winning goals. When he scored the game-winner against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 18 he moved past Gordie Howe into first place in that category with 122.
Though he's six weeks away from his 42nd birthday, Jagr says he's not worried about running out of gas as the season goes on, even though he'll be a key member of the Czech Republic's Olympic team in addition to his role as a top-six forward for the Devils.
"I hope I have a better second half. Hopefully our team is going to have a better second half," Jagr told the Star-Ledger. "I hope opposing teams and players are going to get tired. That's to my advantage. I think in the second half the game is played the way we play so that should work to our advantage. There aren't many wide-open games. Teams have to play more defensively, more along the boards. That's our kind of game."