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Jagr center of attention in return to Philadelphia

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins are fighting for the top spot in the Northeast Division and second place in the Eastern Conference, but the major topic of conversation around the team's locker room after its morning skate was the return to Philadelphia of Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr.

The game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) will mark the first time Jagr has played here since his one-season stint with the team ended. Jagr, in his return to the NHL after three seasons in Europe, had 19 goals and 54 points in 73 games, helped the Flyers reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and after the season said it was the most fun season he had in the NHL.

"It was pretty good last year, that's for sure," Jagr said. "It's too bad we didn't beat New Jersey [in the conference semifinals] to go a little further. I had fun."

In the offseason, while the Flyers pursued high-profile free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Jagr took a one-year offer from the Dallas Stars. At the NHL Trade Deadline, he was moved to the Bruins.

"I was happy here [in Philadelphia]," Jagr said. "Everybody knew it. I loved that team. I loved the fans. I loved the city. But on the other side, I always believe in God. And I always believed He would find the best place for me. I had a fate that something good would happen to me even if [returning to Philadelphia] didn't happen."

Jagr was asked about returning to Philadelphia for the 2013-14 season -- he said he definitely intends to play next season -- but said he's not talking about anything but the current season with the Bruins. In nine games with Boston, he has two goals and six assists. He'll play Tuesday on a line with center Carl Soderberg and left wing Chris Kelly

"We had a lot of injuries when I came here, so coach [Claude Julien] had to change the lines and I was playing with almost everybody and I understand that," Jagr said. "But I've had a lot of ice time and even right now I'm on the third line, but I'm getting the ice time. It's up to me how I'm going to produce. I understand what the situation is: In the playoffs you have to have three lines to be tough to check."

At 41 years old, Jagr has suited up for 43 of 45 games his teams have played, and he said he's feeling fine. The numbers bear that out: He has 16 goals and 18 assists this season. His 0.79 point-per-game average is up from his 0.73 last season, despite the condensed 48-game schedule and the extended travel from playing most of the season in the Western Conference.

Julien usually likes to give his older players a game or two off heading into the postseason, but Jagr said he's not really interested in or in need of rest.

"If [I'm] healthy, I want to play," he said. "I feel more tired when I rest. I have to play all the time. I have to practice a lot. I have to play. My body is kind of different. I'm getting tired when I have rest. I would rather play every game.

"Too bad there's not doubleheaders in hockey. I'd love it. I would feel a lot better the second game."


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