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Jagr: Nedved could be Czech Republic's best player

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jaromir Jagr won't be the oldest player skating for the Czech Republic when his country opens the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month against Sweden.

That distinction will belong to 42-year-old Petr Nedved, who won a silver medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Games playing for Canada. This year's Olympic Games will mark the first time the former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates' will join forces for the Czechs and play for their country at the highest level of international hockey.

Jagr, 41, and Nedved skated two seasons together in Pittsburgh (1995-97). Jagr is currently in his 20th NHL season and first with the New Jersey Devils. Nedved, who spent 15 seasons in the NHL, serves as captain for the provincial team White Tigers Liberec in the Czech league. He has 13 goals and 33 points in 35 games this season.

"I'm happy for Petr; good for him," Jagr said. "On a big ice surface, he can be a big factor. He might be the best player on our team. The main reason the coaching staff chose him was because he played at the [2012] World Championship for Czech and he was better than a lot of the players at that tournament."

Nedved had three goals and five points in nine games for his country at the World Championship.

Jagr, meanwhile, will be representing his country a fifth time at the Winter Olympics. He was on the Czech team that won gold at the 1998 Nagano Games, which was the first featuring NHL players. He also helped the Czech Republic win a bronze medal in the 2006 Turin Games.

Jagr was named to the team with Devils teammates Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky.

"Not too many players get an opportunity to play in the Olympics five times but [Jagr] deserves it," Zidlicky said. "Especially this year."

Jagr leads the Devils in assists (21), points (34) and plus-minus (plus-11), and is tied for the team lead in goals (13) through 43 games. With 694 career goals, he will pass Mark Messier with his next goal for seventh all-time in NHL history.

"In the 1990s, when I was 5 or 6 years old, I started to understand the NHL and every kid my age thought Jagr as a hero on the ice because he played in Pittsburgh and played well," Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek told "He [won] the Art Ross Trophy [as the League's highest-scoring player] five times. It was special to watch him."

Voracek will be representing the Czech Republic for the first time at the Olympics.

"It's going to be something to play with [Jagr] in the Olympics because when I was 10 years old, I would have never thought I would be representing my country at the Olympics," he said. "Never mind playing with my hockey hero."

Jagr wouldn't say much about his fifth appearance in the Olympics, acknowledging there is still a full month remaining before players begin flying to Sochi. He was happy to see Voracek, a former teammate with the Flyers in 2011-12, make the team.

"I'm excited for him," Jagr said. "He was playing in three World Championship tournaments [2010, 2011, 2013] and was good for the national team. It's not surprising to me that he was named to the Czech Olympic Team."


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