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Panthers' Jagr one goal shy of passing Dionne

by Mike Battaglino

Marcel Dionne has been in the top four on the NHL goals list for more than 30 years. Jaromir Jagr has let him have a few more days there, but Dionne knows he'll inevitably be fifth.

Jagr's next goal will give him 732 in the NHL, one more than Dionne. After missing one game with the flu, the Florida Panthers forward reportedly will return to the lineup Thursday at the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+), where Jagr played 139 games from 2013-15 and scored 35 goals.

Jagr tied Dionne on Dec. 10 with his one goal since Nov. 23, a span of 11 games.

Dionne said he knew Jagr would get there eventually.

"Of course, of course, of course, of course," Dionne told FOX Sports West on Saturday. "That's the way it is. ... I passed a lot of guys over the years, and I never thought when I passed somebody in scoring it was a great thing. It's about respect. Game's changed, there were different times ... I had a Jagr hockey jersey when he was in Pittsburgh, and I still have it, autographed by him.

"You watch in the history of the game, [Jagr is] 6-3, 240 pounds ... and had a tremendous amount of reach. And it's one thing I know for sure: incredible shape."

Dionne passed John Bucyk for fourth place with goal No. 557 on Dec. 10, 1983. Dionne then passed Bobby Hull for third with No. 611 on Jan. 21, 1985.

Dionne was second for a time behind Gordie Howe after passing Phil Esposito with No. 718 on Feb. 14, 1988, before Wayne Gretzky scored his 732nd on Dec. 21, 1991.

Dionne remained third on the list until he was passed by Brett Hull on Dec. 8, 2003.

Dionne scored his 731 goals in 1,348 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. His last game was March 18, 1989.

Jagr made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 1990 and has played 1,578 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Devils and Panthers.

"It's a different game, real quick," Dionne said. "I never agreed with the red line. … The problem, once they remove it, with the speed and so on, they have taken a lot of offensive plays that guys are good at to open up, push the puck real quick, get there.

"To me, it's still 95 percent of the goals are scored within 5 feet. So you've got to get in front of the net. … It's not easy. I have a secret, but I'm not going to give my secret away until somebody pays me for it."

Jagr has nine goals in 28 games this season; he scored six in the first eight.

"I was waiting for a long time (for No. 731)," Jagr said Thursday after scoring it against the Washington Capitals. "I had some chances; I just couldn't score. I'm glad it's behind me. Every record looks like there's a big karma around it and it's tough to break it. It's not the first time that I was stuck on a number. It's always like that. The great players, there's great charisma and great karma around it ... it's like a huge wall."

The 43-year-old is 10 goals behind Hull for third place. Gretzky's 894 goals are most in NHL history, 93 more than Howe. Jarome Iginla of the Colorado Avalanche is the next highest active player, in 19th place with 597.

"And it's one thing to say [Jagr] wants to play like until he's 50 years old -- I mean there's other things after hockey, right? -- but now the challenge is never mind me, he's got to try to get Brett Hull," Dionne said. "If he doesn't get him this year, that could be it (laughs). So Brett's going to have to worry about it."

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