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JAGR RETURNS TO THE LINEUP

The winger will skate alongside Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski tonight

by ARI YANOVER @NHLFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

He's baaaaack.

After missing the past six games with a groin injury, Jaromir Jagr will draw back into the Flames' lineup for tonight's clash against the Vancouver Canucks at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m. MT, TV: SNW, Radio: Sportsnet 960 The FAN).

Jagr suffered a soft tissue injury in the Flames' Oct. 21 game against the Minnesota Wild and ended up sidelined for longer than he expected.

"It wasn't the way I planned it," Jagr said of his prolonged absence. "Kind of frustrating."

With Micheal Ferland lighting it up alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Jagr will have a different pair of linemates for his return: Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski.

Together, Bennett and Jankowski combine for 44 years of age, 180 NHL games, and 63 points. Jagr, meanwhile, has them beat in all areas: he's 45, with 1,716 games played, and 1,916 points.

So it stands to reason that this will be quite different for the younger players - and his experience and talent could help them out.

"Obviously he's one of the best players to ever play the game," Jankowski said following the team's morning skate. "So I know that it'll be really easy to gain chemistry with him out there, and I think I just have to go, play my game, and hopefully we can build off each other's game and create some offence out there.

"I'm a big body, too. I like to use my body and my long stick to protect pucks a lot like him, and I can just really look at him and really gain some knowledge on what he's doing, talk to him, and just watching him in practice and stuff like that, so I think our games will definitely work well together."

Coach Glen Gulutzan noted the similarities between the two, as well.

"I said on the ice when they were doing a two-on-one, just look how long these guys are, just their reach," he said. "But I did talk to both of them. I talked to Janks this morning about playing with Jags, and you know, it can be intimidating for a young guy to play with such a player. 

"And I talked to Jags about it too … he's gonna talk to Janks as well, is that hey, this isn't a guy who slaps his stick for the puck, he just wants to play hockey and make the right play. If that's the shot, take the shot. 

"So just trying to let Janks play a little freer there and just play his game and you put smart players together, they can do their thing."

Jagr's return has shuffled Curtis Lazar back down the middle, where he'll centre veterans Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer.

"A good defence is a good offence, right?" Lazar said. "And that's playing with Janko and Benny, we had a few shifts and stuff where we were so close to breaking through, and maybe Jaromir, 68 here, is going to be the guy that's going to break them through. 

"But for our line again, just play your game, play your role, and regardless who we're put out against … we want to be playing offence, too. It's called the fun zone for the reason and with our line, I mean Brouw's a very offensive guy, same with Steeger, and they've put up numbers before, and there's no reason why they can't do it again tonight."

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