Mark Messier said he hopes to be there when Jaromir Jagr passes him on the NHL’s scoring list, so, the man affectionately known as “The Captain” to hockey fans around the world could be in the house come Thursday night.
Jagr, who became friendly with Messier even before becoming his teammate with the Rangers during the 2003-04 season, says in his own charming way he hopes Messier isn’t in Sunrise for Florida’s game against the Boston Bruins.
Jagr, 44, tied his old friend for second place on Tuesday as his three assists in Florida’s 4-3 shootout win gave him 1,887 points in 1,662 NHL games over 23 seasons.
“It’s Christmas, you know, so he should be with his family,” Jagr said with a sly grin.
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“I don’t want him to put any pressure on me. It sure would look stupid if he comes down here and, you know, it takes me five games to get it.”
With Messier — who has been invited to South Florida by the Panthers — and Jagr tied for second, the next step is for Jagr to take his spot behind Wayne Gretzky all by himself.
Gretzky’s mark of 2,857 points will likely stand a long time after Jagr hangs up the blades, though.
No one knows when that day is coming — and it doesn’t look like it’s close.
“I just go out there and play,” said Jagr, who has six goals and 19 points this season.
“When I feel good, I think I can make a difference. I told my linemates, we need to score right now. I feel good, so let us go do it. We got to go. There’s no other way. That’s the way you have to do it.”
Jagr says he lost between 15 and 20 pounds during the offseason as he tried to lessen his bulk and add some speed to his game. He also admits Gretzky’s all-time scoring record is “unbreakable” regardless of how long he continues playing.
“If you see him with his shirt off, not to get crazy here, but he is ripped,” coach Tom Rowe said of Jagr.
“I can’t believe it for a 44-year-old guy. He’s 10 pounds lighter and definitely quicker because I have seen him pull away from guys. That’s just amazing in itself.”
The new style led to some adjustments, and as the points were slow early in the season, Jagr says he didn’t lose faith that what he did in the offseason was right for him.
If he wants to keep playing at a high level, at an advanced age, as the rigors of an 82-plus game season wears on, Jagr said he was committed to make changes to see that through.
After being held without a goal in Florida’s 4-2 opening-round series loss to the Islanders, Jagr made a vow things would be different and he stuck to it.
“I said after the playoffs last year that I needed to make a change, needed to change my body,” Jagr said after a long workout Wednesday as he sat in his locker stall still in full gear a good 20 minutes after leaving the ice.
“I lost at least 15 pounds, and when you lose that much that quick, you’re losing muscle too. I didn’t know how it would affect me, but I didn’t feel as strong. The past few games? I feel great. It’s coming. I believed what I did was a good decision, one that will help me later on.
“I don’t get tired anymore. I could play 30, 40 minutes. I’m good. Right now, I’m not even breaking a sweat. But it took some time, maybe it will take longer. I still feel like my shot isn’t always there. I lost a lot of strength. It’s funny how it works. Even the lost fat affects things.”
Fans and teammates alike celebrated Jagr’s accomplishment during Tuesday’s win as he received a standing ovation following Nick Bjugstad’s game-tying goal in the third period.
After the game, the locker room remained closed for a few extra minutes as teammates joined in on the special moment.
“It was incredible to see how pumped the fans were, the environment here — it was just fun to be on the ice,” Bjugstad said. “I was lucky; I didn’t play with him all game then was fortunate to be part of it. It was fun. ... I have to get a picture with him today.”
Jagr, who is rarely reflective of the accomplishments in his amazing career, says he gets what a moment this is and is happy to be able to share it with his teammates in Florida.
“No question, this is fun,” Jagr said, praising Roberto Luongo for tying Terry Sawchuk for fifth on the all-time wins list after Tuesday’s victory.
“You could feel the energy coming from the crowd and that’s pretty cool.”
Thursday: Bruins at Panthers
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.
Series: Boston leads 48-35-6.
Scouting report: Florida coach Tom Rowe said James Reimer will start in net against the Bruins with Roberto Luongo going Friday against the visiting Red Wings. Jonathan Marchessault is expected to return after missing seven of the past eight. The Bruins are 2-0 against Florida this season but have lost six of their past eight games overall.