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Jagr, Selanne continue to wow fellow players

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Between them, they have skated in more than 2,700 NHL games, scored more than 1,300 goals and amassed more than 1,700 assists throughout their impressive NHL careers, making the matchup Friday between the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars here at American Airlines Center (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) a must-see because it will feature two of the best players ever to lace them up -- Anaheim's 42-year-old Teemu Selanne and Dallas' 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr.

The game is the only one Friday, giving fans a great opportunity to witness two of the greatest European-born players in NHL history.

Great respect between Jagr, Selanne

Last year, to celebrate Jaromir Jagr's 40th birthday, spoke to 40 current and former players, coaches and broadcasters about their favorite memories of Jagr.

Among them was Anaheim Ducks forward and fellow future Hockey Hall of Fame member Teemu Selanne:

"I've played against Jagr for 20 years internationally and in juniors and in the NHL and the one thing that always seems to come out is that he's always smiling. He's having fun. That's the only reason he can still play in the older age. When you're having fun and you enjoy this, you do the right things. Obviously, you condition and all the things you have to do to get better when you get older, but you want to do those with a smile on your face -- because you want to still play. I could never imagine enjoying this game more when I'm older than when I was younger ... and that's amazing."

Jagr and Selanne will face each other Friday night when the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks meet at American Airlines Center (8:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network).

For more on what those around the game think of Jagr, including current linemates Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, click here.

Jagr also showed appreciation at what Selanne, who is a year and a half older, still was able to accomplish:

"Teemu Selanne is a great skater, there's no question about it. You don't know what he does. He's probably practicing hard, but he's a great skater. He's got the speed. He didn't lose it. He was the best skater when he was younger, and maybe he's not the fastest skater right now, but he didn't lose it much. And when you're a good skater or if you have something special, you can build on it. If you have something, you can build the game around it."

-- Adam Kimelman

Selanne will be skating in career game No. 1,351, and to date the Finnish-born wing has 666 goals and 750 assists for 1,416 career points. He might be 42 but it's clear he shows no signs of slowing down.

"He's almost getting better [with age]. He might be a Highlander, that guy, a Finnish Highlander," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Selanne. "He still flies around. He's still one of the fastest, quickest guys. His subtleties, the way he scores goals and doesn't look at the net, shoots when goalies don't think he's going to shoot. He's got some real neat things to his game. We cut him here all the time as far as video, just to see little things he does. We do with [Jagr], [Niklas] Lidstrom and those types of guys because there's something different about those guys. He's very impressive."

Dallas veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas has had his share of battles with Selanne during his 13 seasons in the NHL, and his memories of the talented Finn date back to even before he was playing in the League.

"I've been in the League a while and I grew up watching him play," he said. "That tells you how long he's been in the League, way longer than me. I grew up watching him play, remember him with the old Winnipeg Jets. He'd score goals, throw his gloves in the air and snipe it. It's pretty amazing. His first couple strides, they're amazing. When he gets on the fly, he can still skate like the wind. He's always in good position. He knows where to be on the ice. It's pretty impressive what he's been doing and what he's still doing."

Loui Eriksson said he considers it an honor to skate against a player he grew up idolizing back home in his formative years.

"He's such a great player in the League and he's still producing points out there," Eriksson said. "It's still impressive to see. It's pretty cool to be able to play against him. He's such a good player."

Jamie Benn, the Stars' top center, also holds Selanne in high esteem for a number of reasons.

"It's pretty amazing, what he's done over his career and definitely late in his career," Benn said. "Since I got into the League he's still been dominating. He puts up ridiculous numbers at his age and it seems like he can play forever."

Of course, that respect goes both ways. Not only do the Dallas players have incredible respect for Jagr, their current teammate as well as for Selanne, their adversary Friday, but it's a similar story in the Ducks' locker room.

Selanne has been a fixture in Anaheim since 2005 and clearly is a very well-respected individual in those circles. However, the Ducks players also hold Jagr, who will skate on Dallas' top line alongside Benn and team captain Brenden Morrow on Friday, in similar high regard.

"He's still an elite player," Ducks forward Corey Perry said of Jagr. "You can see it in what he does on the ice and what he continues to do. He loves playing. When he's out there you've got to be careful. It's a cool matchup. It will make for an interesting game. It's kind of a game within the game, to get to watch him. You can't get too involved in it. It's fun to watch guys that have excelled and that continue to excel."

Fellow veteran Saku Koivu has been in the League almost as long as Jagr and Selanne, a fact which definitely is not lost on him.

Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 10
SOG: 19 | +/-: 3
"There's a few guys that have had a career like [Jagr] and Teemu," Koivu said. "It doesn't happen often and probably one of the most amazing things for these guys is they keep doing it year after year. It's amazing to see and it's fun to watch. We [he and Jagr] have played against each other quite many times. Being able to be around almost as long as these guys, it's an accomplishment. You keep trying to push yourself. He [Jagr] had been away from the NHL before last year but he hasn't lost a step. It's fun to watch."

Anaheim forward Daniel Winnik said he has an immense amount of respect for Jagr and what he has accomplished throughout his illustrious NHL career.

"I remember playing him my first year [2007-08] in New York," Winnik said. "He was great back then. He's just so big. What he's done for the League, he's been a superstar for so long. The European guys have really helped the game grow over there and kind of bring awareness over in Europe of the stars that come to the NHL. Teemu, the same, both [he and Jagr are] great ambassadors of the game, both of them still seem like they're in their mid-20s. It's amazing, really."

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