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Jagr's first preseason game in Philly a big hit

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- When he arrived in Philadelphia, Jaromir Jagr said his biggest concern was getting re-acclimated to the smaller North American ice.

Through two preseason games, it looks like the 39-year-old forward never left.

In his home preseason debut Monday, Jagr scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist on the game-winning score to help the Flyers to a 5-3 win against the visiting New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center, on the day it was announced the 2012 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic will be played between these teams on Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park.

Jagr's big night comes one game after he had a goal and an assist in Detroit on Friday.

"I feel better today than I did yesterday," Jagr said. "I think it was more skating, more to get used to the smaller ice. I think the first game, because the ice is so small, I catch myself in the middle more than on the left side. You have to learn small turns to do it."

His turns looked real good, as did his shot.

Jagr scored the Flyers' first goal working the puck back and forth with Kimmo Timonen. Stationed high in the right faceoff circle, he one-timed a Timonen pass past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 9:25 of the first, tying the score.

At 4:54 of the second, he put the Flyers ahead when he took a pass from Danny Briere and buried a wrist shot from the left hash marks on a 5-on-3 Flyers power play to put Philadelphia up 2-1.

"Tonight was a little bit easier because we had a lot of power plays, some 5-on-3, 4-on-3," Jagr said. "The power play is the same everywhere -- big ice, small ice. Was a little bit better than the first game."

If Jagr still is on the learning curve, he's climbing it quick.

"It's a little early," Briere said. "You don't want to get too excited too quick. At the same time, it's not like he didn't play. He played in a good league, maybe not the best league, but close in Russia. You look at him, he's stayed in shape and he's working extremely hard. All those factors combined, I think, at the end of the day, maybe he's still the same player. It's pretty impressive."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette agreed.

"I think to his own admission, his first game in Detroit he did some good things out there and seemed to step it up this game a little more," Laviolette said. "There's going to be that learning curve, that adjustment to getting back here to North American-style hockey. There is truth to it -- I've coached over there, the bigger rinks and different systems and how you play the game. It's not the same as over here. There is more space and more opportunity; here, everything is a little tighter and a little bit more cramped. I would imagine it would take a little more time, but he sure did look good tonight."

The game was Jagr's first in Philadelphia since March 21, 2008, when he played for the Rangers. Flyers fans quickly have taken to Jagr, giving him a rousing ovation when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup. After all the games he's played here as a visiting player, it was a reaction that surprised him.

"Every time I play against Philadelphia, they whistle," he said with a laugh. "Every time I touch the puck, they whistle. Of course it (the cheering) was different. Hopefully it'll be like that all the time. I know when we win the fans are going to be great."

Jagr finished his night by helping set up Braydon Coburn's game-winning goal at 6:35 of the third. With the score tied 3-3, Jagr held the puck in at the Rangers' blue line and got the puck to the middle to Claude Giroux. Giroux lost the puck, but it went right to Coburn, who skated into a slap shot that beat Lundqvist.

Giroux and Briere had 3 assists each, Matt Read had a power-play goal and Wayne Simmonds closed the scoring with an empty-net goal for the Flyers, who won their second straight.

Brian Boyle had a goal and an assist, and Andreas Thuresson and John Mitchell also scored for the Rangers in their final North American game until Oct. 15. They left Monday night for a 10-day trip to Europe, which includes four preseason games in five nights in four countries, and finishes with two games at the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere, against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in Stockholm.

The game was a chippy affair that saw two fights in the first period and nearly another one in the second. At 7:29 of the first, Flyers forward Tom Sestito hit Andre Deveaux hard from behind, driving the Rangers forward face-first into the glass. Sestito was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

Late in the second period, Flyers forward Maxime Talbot received a minor penalty for boarding Deveaux, who then went after Talbot and received a roughing penalty Deveaux was not injured on either hit.

While the game featured 77 minutes in penalties, the highlight of the night was watching Giroux and Jagr working together.

"With G (Giroux) in the center, it's a lot easier to play," Jagr said. "He's that good. The guy has a good future here. … He's a little genius here."

Playing the last three seasons in Russia, Jagr said he wasn't familiar with Giroux's game, but now that he's seen him up close, Jagr said he sees a bit of a former teammate in the 23-year-old All-Star.

"Mario Lemieux," Jagr said. "A little Mario Lemieux. A little bit smaller. But he can see it. … You have to be watching all the time, because you never know when the puck is coming."

And whether he's 39 or 29, Jagr still knows what to do with it.

"I'm not promising anything," he said of his point-per-game pace so far. "I'm going to try my best every game. Sometimes it goes easier than other nights. I wish it would be like that all season long. I know it won't. But I'm going to try my best."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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