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Jagr forced to leave game

by John Dellapina
VANCOUVERJaromir Jagr had insisted that the only things that emerged bruised and battered from his center-ice collision with Alex Ovechkin Sunday night were his feelings.

Turns out the damage was more tangible.

Jagr had to leave Tuesday night's Olympic qualifying-round game for his Czech Republic team in the first minute of the second period because of a sore neck that the team doctor said resulted from that Ovechkin hit. Jagr never returned and his team nearly was eliminated from the tournament without him, blowing a two-goal lead only to pull out a victory on David Krejci's goal 5:10 into overtime.

"We hope he'll be available to play tomorrow," Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka said after his team's great escape at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Arena. "We believe he will be ready. And obviously, we're hoping he can play the whole game."

Jagr appeared no worse for wear immediately after Sunday's game, in which he was felled by a thunderous hit from Ovechkin at center ice that produced a turnover off which Russia scored a pivotal goal in its 4-2 Group B victory.

"The hit doesn't hurt, the mistake hurts because they scored a goal on that play," Jagr said immediately following that game, which he completed and in which he logged 15:28 of ice time. "It's a bad feeling. But I have to come back."

He came back Tuesday night. But he wasn't nearly the same dominating player that he had been through the first three games of the tournament.

And just 35 seconds into a power play in the first minute of the second period, after flubbing a put-away off the left post, Jagr skated to the Czech bench, flexed his neck a few times and then headed to the dressing room. He wound up playing just seven shifts in the game that very well could have been the last of his Olympic career – and could turn out to have been if he can't play Wednesday night against Finland.

Without Jagr, the Czech offense gradually deteriorated.

Asked whether losing such a talent hurt, Czech captain Patrik Elias said: "That sure does. On the other hand, you have guys used to getting more minutes and they got those minutes."
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