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Malkin, Letang Can't Wait to Meet Jagr

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Evgeni Malkin is a superstar.

But even he gets starstruck sometimes.

The one player that the Penguins center is looking forward to seeing this weekend at the NHL All-Star festivities in Nashville is someone who spent years re-writing the team’s franchise record books before he did – and who is now re-writing the NHL history books.

Jaromir Jagr.

“I want to play with Jagr,” Malkin smiled during player media availability on Friday at Bridgestone Arena, glancing over to where the legendary forward was speaking to reporters on the other side of the room.

“I want to give a pass to Jagr and (have him) score,” Malkin continued of the two-time Stanley Cup winner with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. “He was my hero when I was growing up. I watched how he played. He’s an amazing player and he’s here, it’s an amazing time.”

Current teammate Kris Letang echoed that sentiment later that morning.

“Today I have a chance to see Jagr and guys I watched growing up,” Letang said. “Growing up I was wearing No. 68 every time I had a chance to wear that number. So obviously it’s fun to be next to him and play next to him.”

Malkin, 29, followed Jagr, 43, closely as a kid growing up in Russia, long before he knew he would join him as one of the Penguins’ greats. Jagr first caught his attention when the Czech Republic native represented his country at the Winter Olympic Games.

“They played against Russia,” Malkin said. “He’s always a hero in the Czech Republic. He’s one of the best players in the world. Of course I didn’t watch every game, but I read the news, I knew who he was and of course I like how he plays.”

The two of them can't wait to spend time with Jagr this weekend at his 10th All-Star Game appearance (his first came back in 1992, when he was one of five Penguins selected for the game along with Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens and Paul Coffey) after ranking second on the Panthers in goals (15) and points (33).

Right now, Jagr’s most recent accomplishment is passing Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the NHL all-time goal scoring list back in December – and he’s just five goals from moving ahead of Brett Hull for third place.

We would be here all night if we listed all of Jagr’s accomplishments, but what impresses Letang the most is how he’s able to contribute the way he does 25 years after breaking into this league.

“Performing to that level and still being a star in this league and being productive, that’s what’s the most impressive,” Letang said. “Give him credit, he puts the work, he puts the sacrifices in.”

When asked if he hopes to play as long as Jagr has, Malkin laughed.

“I hope, it’s my dream,” he joked.

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