NEWARK, N.J. -- It's been almost 26 years since Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr played against each other for the first time. The last meeting between the two legends and future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame could take place Friday at Prudential Center.
Selanne, 43, is retiring at the end of the season and the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks won't play against each other again in the regular season. The only way the game Friday won't be the last time Selanne and Jagr play against each other is if the Devils and Ducks make the Stanley Cup Final or one of them gets traded.
There's no way the Ducks trade Selanne and it seems remote that the 41-year-old Jagr would be available at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 because he's currently the Devils' leading scorer and the team figures to be in a race for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anaheim leads the Pacific Division with 53 points, while the Devils are two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
"You never want to let go of heroes," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think both of them doing great is good for the game. Both very popular players, both well loved by the home fan bases and across the League, quite frankly. I'm glad they're both playing well."
Selanne said he and Jagr first met in the 1988 European Junior Championship. Selanne was the top scorer in the tournament with 16 points in six games for Finland while Jagr was playing for the former Czechoslovakia.
They've been in different conferences for nearly their entire NHL careers save for Jagr's 34-game stay with the Dallas Stars last season, so while they respect each other they haven't crossed paths enough to become good friends.
That doesn't take away from the mutual feeling of respect Selanne and Jagr have for one another.
"A lot of respect for each other, that's for sure," Selanne said.
"He's always played in [the Western] Conference, so there were not many games," Jagr told reporters Thursday. "But he's a great player. He's a goal scorer."
Jagr has been a slightly better goal scorer mainly because he has 12 goals this season while Selanne has four. He has built a 14-goal separation from Selanne this season.
Jagr has 693 and is eighth on the NHL's all-time list, one behind Mark Messier. Selanne has 679, putting him 11th on the League's all-time list.
Jagr also is eighth on the all-time points list with 1,717, six behind former teammate Mario Lemieux. Selanne is 15th on the all-time points list with 1,439.
"He's a very exciting player, an unbelievable career," Selanne said of Jagr. "It's good to see the old guys can still do it."
Selanne said he hasn't been surprised by Jagr's production this season, which includes 29 points in 35 games.
"I know how good he can be," Selanne said. "He still has all the tools. When you play on the first line or first power play with that kind of talent, good things happen. I'm so happy to see him doing well. He deserves that."
Meanwhile, Selanne is playing fewer minutes than normal this season and isn't playing on consecutive nights, leading to him being a healthy scratch five times so far. He also missed three games with an injury.
He has nine points in 28 games and is averaging 14:17 of ice time per game. Selanne said he's hopefully preserving his energy for a strong push in the second half.
"Lately I have had some chances that didn't go in and it's frustrating, but the good thing is the team is playing well," Selanne said. "I expect way more in the second half. I'm feeling good and that's the bottom line. The second half is going to be what really matters. You want to play well in the second half."