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Panthers' Jagr hopes third time's a charm

Florida veteran won his second Stanley Cup championship 24 years ago

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Jaromir Jagr is back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 18th time looking for that elusive third title.

Jagr, 44, won the Stanley Cup in each of his first two seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he's still waiting for that third crown 24 years later. It's been so long, in fact, that Jagr said Tuesday he actually couldn't recall the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup.

"I don't really remember it," Jagr said. "When I was in Pittsburgh, we made the playoffs every year. Lately, I was on teams where we didn't make the playoffs. Early in my career, I missed only once, I think, in the first 18 years. I've played a lot of playoff games. Through my experiences, it's just a totally different season. Starting from 0-0, (even) first seed facing the eighth seed, it's very close."

Jagr's last playoff appearance came in 2013 with the Boston Bruins, who acquired him from the Dallas Stars prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Jagr had no goals and 10 assists in 22 games when the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final before losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Jagr and the Panthers will play the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round starting Thursday at BB&T Center (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports, MSG+, SUN).

This time, Jagr helped the Panthers earn their playoff berth from the start of the season.

"It is different, no question about it," Jagr said. "We made two, three trades ourselves before the season ended to make our team stronger, but for me personally I was here the whole year. All 80 games, we were playing for something, to make the playoffs, and when we finally get it, now a new season starts again.

"Of course, it's exciting. We were working all year for it to finally get the playoffs here, and now we have a chance to do something in the playoffs."

In his first full season in Florida after being acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils in February 2015, Jagr led the Panthers in scoring with 66 points (27 goals, 39 assists).

Video: FLA@TBL: Jagr tallies 25th goal on the power play

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said perhaps the most impressive thing about Jagr's regular-season performance was his consistency.

"There wasn't a time where he had 10 bad games," Gallant said. "Usually sometimes during the season guys have bad stretches, but a guy at that age and the way he's played … He's been consistent all year long and putting up good numbers for us. There was no stretch where I said, 'Oh, he's on his way out.' He's played well all year.

"He's really important for us. We always talk about our veteran guys and he's a key guy. Obviously he's going to be a Hall of Famer and he's a great player. But he just keeps playing well and working hard, that's why he's playing a lot of minutes for us, because he wants to play and he's playing well."

Gallant also dismissed any concern about the schedule being an issue for the oldest player in the League. There are back-to-back games Thursday and Friday, with Game 3 on Sunday.

"He's done it all year long and he's had no issues with it," Gallant said. "Back-to-back games, three in four, it's not as issue."

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