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Older, wiser Jagr embraces complementary role

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- With Mark Recchi's 43rd birthday just a couple months past in the spring of 2011, he famously told his Boston Bruins teammates that if the team ended its Stanley Cup championship drought he would retire.

That June, Recchi made good on his promise.

Now, 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr, another left-shooting right wing whose plaque will someday wind up on the wall of the Hall of Fame in Toronto, is not about to make any such proclamations in the Bruins dressing room.

To be fair, Recchi was in his third season with Boston when he declared his intentions, and Jagr had been property of the Bruins two days when he was asked Thursday if this is his last shot at playing in the NHL and again raising the Cup.

Jaromir Jagr
Right Wing - BOS
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 26
SOG: 87 | +/-: -5
"I don't know. I love to play," Jagr said after his first morning skate with the Bruins at TD Garden. "So if I feel I can play on some kind of good level, I want to keep playing if I'm going to get a chance or opportunity to play. I'm not going to say anything about retiring because I'm not ready for it. I love the game too much. So if I'm not good for NHL, I'm going to go and play in the Czech league, that's how it goes. But I still love the game. Like everybody else. If you love something, you don't just want to let it go and you hold it until you can."

The Bruins traded for Jagr on Tuesday, when they shipped prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne and a conditional 2013 draft pick to the Dallas Stars. The team hopes Jagr's acquisition will ultimately pay off the way Recchi's eventually did earlier this decade. For the here and now, the Bruins are looking for an increase of production at even strength and on the power play. Boston started Thursday 12th in the League in goals per game (2.74) and 25th on the power play (14.7 percent).

Jagr, a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner and the eighth leading scorer in NHL history, was first among the Stars in scoring with 26 points. With the Bruins, the plan is for him to be another part of an extremely deep lineup. He won't have to carry the entire burden for the offense.

That's a role he's embracing later in his career. He explained that in his younger days, he was focused on being the player who scored all the goals and got all the points.

"Don't take it wrong, I like to score. But there's more important things, the whole picture of a team and to win as a team," he said. "I think in that kind of way I've changed a lot."

"Don't take it wrong, I like to score. But there's more important things, the whole picture of a team and to win as a team. I think in that kind of way I've changed a lot."
-- Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr

Jagr said he's familiar with some of the players already on the Bruins, including his former Pittsburgh teammate Andrew Ference, Czech Republic Olympic teammate David Krejci and longtime on-ice rival (and neighbor from Slovakia) Zdeno Chara. Everyone in the Bruins' room is more than familiar with Jagr's career and resume.

Coach Claude Julien said he is expecting his team to experience a boost in several areas with 6-foot-3, 240-pound Jagr in the lineup.

"This is a guy that can certainly help our hockey club in many different ways," Julien said. "He's a guy that can certainly make plays, he's a big guy -- we talked about that -- he protects the puck so well, strong on his stick, heavy stick. As you know, the power play is another area that he can certainly fit in. There's so much I think he can bring, and with our club, the way we play, there's no doubt he will blend in very well."

With such a legendary reputation that precedes him, it'll be tough for Jagr to just blend in. Nonetheless, he's going to attempt to just be another piece of the puzzle. And if he can contribute in ways that don't show up on the score sheet, he'll be as pleased as he'd be if scored a hat trick every night.

"I was in the same situation in Philadelphia last year. And I was so happy when I saw the other guys playing with me or my other teammates doing so good," Jagr said. "And in the interview, they say Jagr helps us. So that's what makes me also happy -- not just scoring goals, but also I can help. And there's a lot of young guys. I learned a lot of stuff through my hockey career. I've played for 22 years [as] a professional, and I played with so many great players and I learned so much stuff. And we can always learn; no matter how old you are, you can always learn.

"And if somebody thinks he knows everything when he's 25, he's lying to you or he's dumb. You can always learn, and I'm here to teach the guys and tell what I had to go through and make their hockey life easier."

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