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Jagr hopes to re-adjust to NHL game in debut

by Mike G. Morreale
It's all systems go Friday when 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr begins his NHL comeback with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jagr, who sat out Philadelphia's first three preseason games, finally will earn some playing time against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in the club's fourth preseason game this week. For Jagr, it marks his first NHL game since 2007-08, when he led the New York Rangers with 71 points in 82 games.

Following a three-year stint with Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League, the Flyers signed Jagr to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million on July 1.


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"I just want (to use this time to) getting used to the North American rinks (again)," Jagr told the media in Detroit on Friday. "The North American game and European game are two totally different games with the same rules. You have to skate a lot more, skate differently and you cannot be that aggressive. Most of the teams play the trap (in the NHL), and it's more aggressive in Europe."

Jagr will be looked upon to provide some of that missing scoring punch following the off-season departures of forwards Jeff Carter (Columbus), Mike Richards (Los Angeles) and Ville Leino (Buffalo). He has 646 goals in 1,273 NHL games spanning 17 seasons. When he starts the season, he'll be the NHL's active scoring leader with 1,599 points.

"I want to adjust as quick as I can to the NHL style of hockey again," he said. "I want to learn and find out again where to skate, how to skate, how to play … sometimes it's different and I need to get the timing and speed of the game back."

It's possible Jagr could share his first NHL shift in four seasons on a line with left wing James van Riemsdyk and center Claude Giroux -- a trio coach Peter Laviolette has utilized quite often in training camp.

"I thought my game was always on the boards," Jagr said. "I felt I was strong enough to hold the puck and play 1-on-1. Hopefully that will be the case this year, making good decisions in the offensive zone. I've never been known as a defender, but nobody would ask me that if I was scoring."

Laviolette feels Jagr's presence could also help bolster the team's power play, which finished 19th in the League last season. Jagr has scored 181 power-play goals.

"He's scored a lot of power-play goals in his career," Laviolette said. "I think when you bring in a guy like that, his experience and talent can only benefit your group. Saying that, we're also looking for (van Riemsdyk) in a bigger role. Not as a fill-in, but somebody to step up, as well as others. There are young players here and players who have been around three or four years that we're looking at for our power play."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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