NEW YORK -- Jaromir Jagr
sat in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden on Friday morning, offering reporters calculated but thoughtful answers about his return to the NHL and the chemistry he's developed with linemate Claude Giroux
But when the 39-year-old was asked what he expects from the Garden crowd Friday night, he crocked his head back and laughed.
For that, Jagr had no response.
"Hopefully a winning night," Jagr said with a grin.
Friday marks the first time Jagr will play at the Garden since he left the Rangers after the 2007-08 season to play in the KHL. The Flyers played in New York on Nov. 26, but Jagr was scratched, nursing a groin injury.
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 29
SOG: 77 | +/-: 11
Now, Jagr is healthy, playing good hockey -- he has 11 goals and 29 points in 29 games -- and ready to face his former team.
"It's part of the business of hockey, or any professional sport," Jagr said, adding he is mainly focused on helping his current team win.
So, Jagr will sport an orange Flyers jersey as Philadelphia battles New York for the top spot in the Atlantic Division on Friday night. Even wearing the enemy's colors and with all that's at stake, there's still a chance Ranger fans will cheer as Jagr skates onto the ice.
That's because he's meant so much to the organization in his time there.
"He was the franchise when he was here," Flyers teammate James van Riemsdyk
said. "He was really good."
Wheeler's offensive awakening keys Jets
Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent
came under considerable criticism when he failed to score through the first 18 games of the season. READ MORE ›
Van Riemsdyk has a unique perspective on the situation. Growing up in New Jersey, he spent his childhood rooting for the Rangers. The 22-year-old remembers how excited he was when Jagr was traded to the Rangers in 2004.
Jagr went on to play three-and-a-half seasons for the Rangers. He was a lynchpin for the 2005-06 squad, scoring 54 goals as New York snapped a seven-year playoff drought.
"The seasons he had when he was here were unbelievable," van Riemsdyk said.
Van Riemsdyk said if he didn't play in the NHL and he attended Friday night's game simply as a Rangers fan, he would "definitely cheer for Jagr."
"He obviously played some good hockey when he was here," van Riemsdyk said. "I think New York appreciates stuff like that, but I guess we'll see when the puck drops."
Jagr himself is not too worried.
Jagr said he has nothing but fond memories about his time in New York -- "I cannot say one bad thing about the Rangers," he said -- but he has moved on.
Still, he knows whatever happens on Friday night is just a preview of what's to come. On Dec. 29, the Flyers visit Pittsburgh, the city where Jagr began his NHL career. There was speculation this past summer he would make his return to the League with the Penguins before he chose their in-state rivals instead.
"I don't know what to expect [against the Rangers]," Jagr said. "But hopefully it's not as bad as Pittsburgh."