Jagr PIT practice 1

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Jaromir Jagr practiced with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the day before they will send his No. 68 to the rafters of PPG Paints Arena.

It was the first time the Jagr, who turned 52 on Thursday, practiced with the Penguins since being traded to the Washington Capitals on July 11, 2001. The former NHL forward took drills with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and defenseman Kris Letang, the current core in Pittsburgh.

“Just fun,” said Crosby, whose locker stall was next to one for Jagr. “It’s pretty special, I think, for all of us to be a part of this weekend and to have an opportunity like this today. I think we’re trying to enjoy it and trying to make it the best experience for him too.”

Jagr will have his No. 68 retired before the Penguins host the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; SN-PIT, BSW, SN360, TVAS), joining Mario Lemieux (66) and Michel Briere (21). In 11 seasons with Pittsburgh, Jagr had 1,079 points (439 goals, 640 assists) in 806 games, the fourth most in franchise history behind Mario Lemieux (1,723), Crosby (1,556) and Malkin (1,270). He helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992.

“It’s well deserved,” Crosby said. “He’s done so much for the team, for the city, the organization. We just hope that it’s the best celebration possible for him.”

Jagr was celebrated Friday during a dinner event on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, where he discussed his excitement and apprehension for Sunday.

Jagr PIT practice 2

“I’m kind of afraid of it. They don’t like me here,” Jagr said. “But on the other side, I’m so honored for whatever is going to happen Sunday. I’m so honored.”

The stands at the Penguins’ practice facility were packed Saturday, so those fears could probably be put to rest. A line of fans remained down the stairs and was backed up to the door. When Jagr emerged, he was greeted with a thunderous ovation.

He remained on the ice for a few drills, listening as coach Mike Sullivan drew up something along the glass, then went to the bench after about 15 minutes.

"I know it's going to be a special day tomorrow, so some people might know I wore 68 my entire life,” Letang said. “He was one of my favorite players growing up. I just ask him, I say, 'Would it be possible if you could sign my jersey tomorrow?' It's going to have his patch. Never really had the chance to sit down and chat. I know tomorrow is going to be an emotional and a big day for him, so I didn't want to bother him tomorrow. So, just share that little story."

Jagr continues to play; he has four assists in 15 games this season for Kladno, the team he owns in Extraliga, the top professional league in Czechia. He didn't look out of place in practice, Malkin said.

“Like, [he’s a] legend on ice. It’s like crazy,” Malkin said. “We know how good he is. But I’m surprised he’s still skating pretty well. I’m excited to skate today with him. Great memory for myself. Growing up, I watched how he played. It’s a great day today and, I hope, tomorrow.”

Malkin said he wouldn’t mind if Jagr’s participation went beyond practice.

“Now, we’re an older team,” Malkin said. “Maybe, now it’s time.”

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