Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers have big plans for scoring maestro Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Thursday afternoon, is expected to join the Panthers on Saturday before Florida plays host to Buffalo at BB&T Center at 3 p.m.
Jaromir Jagr, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Thursday afternoon, is expected to join the Panthers on Saturday before Florida plays host to Buffalo at BB&T Center at 3 p.m. Getty Images

For the second consecutive day, the Panthers went about their business Friday without their newest teammate.

Jaromir Jagr, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Thursday afternoon, is expected to join the team Saturday before Florida plays host to Buffalo at BB&T Center at 3 p.m.

Jagr, the 43-year-old right winger who made his NHL debut three seasons before the Florida Panthers hit the ice for the first time, will likely see plenty of time on one of Florida’s top lines and try to help a power play ranked 28th in the league.

“I heard about the trade when I came in [Thursday], and it was just amazing to hear,” said 19-year-old Sasha Barkov, who could center the future Hall of Famer against the Sabres.

“He was a top player in the league, won two Stanley Cups before I was born. He’s one of the great players who can score from anywhere on the ice. It’s a good thing for us.’’

Already, the team is banking on Jagr’s star power to invigorate ticket sales as well as help kick-start a stagnant offense.

Florida was shut out 3-0 by Chicago on Thursday night and hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game since putting up three on the reeling Maple Leafs last week in Toronto.

Among teams within six points of a playoff spot, the Panthers have the fewest goals (2.28 per game) and the highest goal differential (minus-27).

Since beating the Ducks 6-2 on Feb. 10, Florida is averaging a meager 1.2 goals per game.

Although Jagr only has 11 goals in 57 games with New Jersey this season, the Panthers hope more top-line minutes as well as more offensive creativity will get him going.

Jagr’s 24 goals and 67 points last season would have led the Panthers. This year, his 11 goals would be good for third on the team and his 29 points place him fifth.

“We can find a place for him on the roster somewhere, for sure,’’ said coach Gerard Gallant, whose final season as an NHL regular was with Tampa Bay during Florida’s inaugural season of 1993-94. Gallant faced the young, mullet-sporting Jagr when he was first breaking in with the Penguins.

“We all know what he is. He’s an older guy, but he’s still a real good hockey player. He brings some credibility to our hockey club, and I think he’ll be a real good fit with our group. I don’t know the guy that well, but I played against him. That tells you how long he’s been around.”

For the second year in a row, Buffalo gets to be the team Florida’s newest star breaks out against.

Last year, Roberto Luongo played his first game with the Panthers after being reacquired from Vancouver and shut out the Sabres 2-0 on March 7.

“[Jagr] was by far one of my favorite players I got to watch,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters in Buffalo on Friday.

“The Florida Panthers are a young team that needs some proper leadership and direction to get them in that next hump. It’s a great move.”

New executive chairman Peter Luukko saw Jagr’s influence on young players firsthand while president of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Luukko, whose opinion on the deal was sought out by general manager Dale Tallon, said players such as Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux benefited from having Jagr as a teammate.

Jagr’s work ethic is so strong the Flyers and other teams he has played for gave him a key to their training facility so he could work out whenever the mood struck him.

The Panthers are banking on Jagr’s work acumen rubbing off on their many impressionable youngsters.

“He was an incredible influence in our locker room, especially with our younger players in terms of leading by example,” Luukko said.

“No one worked harder on our team. ... When Dale called me and mentioned we had a chance to get in on the Jagr deal, I told him he was a first-class, awesome guy. I was 1,000 percent behind this.”

PIRRI RETURNS

Brandon Pirri centered Florida’s third line with Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes on Friday and has been cleared to return to the lineup.

Pirri has been out since injuring a shoulder Feb. 10.

Defenseman Willie Mitchell practiced again Friday but won’t play against the Sabres.

“He’s still day-to-day,” Gallant said.

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