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At the Rink: Panthers at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- Right wing Jaromir Jagr will make his return to New Jersey on Sunday when the Florida Panthers face the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Jagr led the Devils with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) in 82 games in 2013-14, and had 11 goals and 29 points in 57 games last season before the Devils traded him to the Panthers on Feb. 26 for a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and third-round choice in 2016. The Devils later traded the 2015 selection to the Anaheim Ducks to acquire forward Kyle Palmieri.

"I still have fun playing, no question," Jagr said. "Some nights are tougher than others when you're playing back-to-backs. Sometimes I feel like 70-years-old after the game, but the next day I feel like 20 so it's up and down."

Jagr needs one goal to move into a tie with Hockey Hall of Fame member Marcel Dionne (731) for fourth on the NHL's all-time list and is 11 behind Brett Hull (741) for third place. Wayne Gretzky has the most goals in NHL history with 894, 93 more than Gordie Howe.

"He's hard to believe; every night he comes to the rink, ready to play and you get tired of talking about it because he does it every day," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "He plays well and works hard and has been a good leader for us."

Jagr, 43, is tied for the Panthers lead with eight goals and is first with 18 points in 24 games. He has 730 goals and 1,820 points in 1,574 regular-season games in 22 seasons. The Panthers are his eighth NHL team. He is 30 points behind Howe (1,850 points) for third in points, and 67 behind Mark Messier (1,887 points) for second. Gretzky holds the record with 2,857 points.

"He's an impressive guy when you look at what he can do now," Devils coach John Hynes said of Jagr. "It's a great thing for all of us. You look at his passion for the game and he has such a high skill level but in order to do what he's done for so long it's that passion and commitment he has for the things that surround the game. His conditioning, his dedication and those things. We have to make sure we're aware of him."

Jagr is also 10 goals and 25 points short of tying the single-season record for a player 43 or older. Messier had 18 goals and 43 points in his final NHL season with the New York Rangers in 2003-04.

If Jagr ends up leading the Panthers in points at the end of the regular season, he will break his own record as the oldest player to lead a team in scoring in NHL history. His previous mark was set in 2013-14 with the Devils.

"He's just so strong down low you just have to make sure you don't let him protect the puck and wheel around the zone and shield guys off because once he gets in those positions he's really hard to defend," Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said. "For me he's got such a long reach and he shoots it with his hands off the top of his stick so you don't know where or when it's coming."

The Panthers have won five straight games, outscoring the opposition 10-6 over that stretch. They have also won five straight road games to tie a franchise record set in 2008, but haven't won at Prudential Center since Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference First Round.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo is expected to start for Florida and will tie Hockey Hall of Fame member Tony Esposito for seventh all-time in games played (886). Schneider served as Luongo's backup for five seasons when they were teammates on the Vancouver Canucks.

"I had a good time with [Luongo]," Schneider said. "He made it a lot easier on me. It could have been a lot more difficult with somebody else but he was great throughout."

The Devils are 2-2-2 in their past six games off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and will play six of their next nine games on the road after Sunday.

Here are the projected lineups:

PANTHERS

Brandon Pirri - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Derek MacKenzie - Connor Brickley

Quinton Howden - Dave Bolland - Logan Shaw

Brian Campbell - Willie Mitchell

Erik Gudbranson - Aaron Ekblad

Steven Kampfer - Dmitry Kulikov

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Alex Petrovic (foot)

Scratched: Shawn Thornton, Dylan Olsen

DEVILS

Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak

Patrik Elias - Jacob Josefson - Kyle Palmieri

Stefan Matteau - Sergey Kalinin - Tyler Kennedy

Brian O'Neill - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - David Schlemko

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Travis Zajac (upper body), Tuomo Ruutu (right foot fracture), Jiri Tlusty (upper body)

Scratched: Bobby Farnham, Jon Merrill

Status report: Thornton will be a healthy scratch; Shaw and Brickley are in the lineup for the Panthers. … Bjugstad, who is not with the Panthers in the final game of a five-game road trip, remains day-to-day. … Gelinas will replace Merrill on defense and O'Neill will replace Farnham on the fourth line. … Ruutu skated with the Devils on Sunday but is still not ready to play.

Who's hot: Luongo has won four straight starts for the first time since December 2013 when he won five straight as a member of the Canucks. He has allowed one goal or fewer in his past three starts. … Cammalleri has three goals and five points in the past two games.

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