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Jagr not interested in farewell tour with Flames

Forward, likely playing final NHL season, focused on next game instead of last one

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If it was Jaromir Jagr's final game at Capital One Arena on Monday, neither he nor the Washington Capitals fans seemed to care.

Jagr, who has said that this, his 24th season, will likely be his last in the NHL, isn't interested in a farewell tour. After getting an assist on the Calgary Flames' final goal in their 4-1 victory against the Capitals, his focus was on getting ready for the next game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-O, NHL.TV).

"First of all, I don't think like that," Jagr said when asked if he had considered that it might be his last time playing in Washington; he was on the Capitals from 2001-04. "I'm trying to concentrate on every shift, every minute with the opportunity I've got."

Jagr said this while completing his postgame ride on a stationary bicycle. At 45, it's normal for him to fit in a workout after a game, but he said he's had to change how he utilizes his time on and off the ice between games this season because of his reduced role.
  
He's gone from skating on the Florida Panthers' first line last season to playing on the Flames' third line with Sam Bennett and rookie center Mark Jankowski. His 14:43 in ice time Monday was up from his season average of 12:43 per game, but still more than two minutes less than the 16:59 he was playing with the Panthers last season.

Video: DET@CGY: Jagr scores his first goal with the Flames

"That's a different role than I've ever been on," Jagr said. "I don't mind it. It's a new challenge. I've got to do stuff differently than I'm used to, but there are big opportunities, I would say. I don't have to play much minutes, so if I'm ready we can score from the third line."

Jagr, who ranks third with 766 NHL goals behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801), and is second in points with 1,920  behind Gretzky (2,857), knew his role would be different when he signed a one-year contract with the Flames on Oct. 4. After the Panthers chose not to re-sign him, he had waited throughout the summer and training camp for a team to make him a contract offer.

He sat out the first three games of the season to get in some practices before making his Flames debut at the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 11. Just as he was getting comfortable, he sustained a lower-body injury against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 21 and missed six games. 

That was different for Jagr, too. Over the previous four seasons with the New Jersey Devils and Panthers, he played in 320 of a possible 328 games, including all 82 last season.

"Things happen. They happen for a reason. So I'm not really complaining," Jagr said. "It's part of the game. I was pretty lucky last year. Not that lucky this year, but it's OK."

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan, who also coached Jagr with the Dallas Stars in 2012-13, likes what he's brought to the Flames, particularly the influence he's had on younger players such as Bennett, 21, Jankowski , 23, and Johnny Gaudreau, 24.

"He's loving the chance to work with and speak with Johnny," Gulutzan said. "He thinks Johnny's a real good player, and I always thought in Dallas and here he's been really good for our young players. He stays out [on the ice]. They see him out there. He loves the game. He's in the gym after. He's always open to talk with them about the game and different things."

Jagr said he's enjoyed watching the Flames' top line of Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland. Gaudreau and Monahan each had a goal and an assist against the Capitals.

Video: CGY@WSH: Gaudreau snipes a wrister past Holtby

Gaudreau is third in the NHL with 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists), behind Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos (35 points) and Nikita Kucherov (33).

"The way they play every night is the reason why we have the record we have," Jagr said of the 12-8-0 Flames. "I'm impressed they go every night and I really appreciate that every shift."
The Flames are 7-2-0 in their past nine games. Jagr, who has six points (one goal, five assists) in 11 games this season, simply wants to do his part to help them to continue to improve.

"Every time I have a chance to do something, I have to do it," he said. "I'm not going to get [many] opportunities."

When Jagr's name was announced for getting the secondary assist on Mark Giordano's goal that made it 4-1 6:39 into the third period, it drew a smattering of boos from the crowd. Jagr used to be booed every time he touched the puck in Washington, an expression of the fans' lingering discontent over his three disappointing seasons with the Capitals.

Enough time has passed that the fans seemed indifferent Monday to whether they'll see Jagr play again. 

He said when he signed with Flames that "it's 99.9 percent that this will be my last season." Chances are he won't be back here or at Wells Fargo Center, where he played against the Philadelphia Flyers, another one of his former teams, on Saturday.

If Jagr, who has played in 1,722 NHL games, plays in 46 more this season (the Flames have 62 left), he'd surpass Howe (1,767) for the most in NHL history. He'd also pass former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Ron Francis (1,731 games) and former New York Rangers teammate Mark Messier (1,756).

Jagr claimed not to be thinking about Howe's record.

"He's not in it for the accolades," Gulutzan said. "I think he's pretty secure in himself in those regards. He's playing because he loves it, and I think people respect that and his teammates respect that."

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