A few days before the Panthers started their season, Jaromir Jagr sat in front of his locker and said he disliked the first few games of a new year.
“The toughest part of a season is the start of it,’’ Jagr said. “Once you get going, get into game shape, you feel better and good about your game. I love it then. But the start is tough, it’s tough to get going. This is the toughest part.”
Well, the Panthers sure hope Jagr gets going soon.
Coming into Friday, Jagr was tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring (three others have seven points) with four goals and two assists.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On Thursday, Jagr had a hand in all three Florida goals in a 3-2 victory over Buffalo. Jagr gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead with a pair of first period goals then Sasha Barkov finished off a Jagr rebound in the third for the game-winner.
The 43-year-old Jagr didn’t score his fourth goal with New Jersey last year until his 23rd game. With the Panthers, he continues to climb up the NHL record book.
With 726 career goals, Jagr is five behind Marcel Dionne for fourth all-time and 15 goals behind Brett Hull for third.
Jagr needs 42 more points to tie Gordie Howe for third all-time and is 79 points behind Mark Messier for second.
With his devotion to fitness and staying on top of his game — “I try to become a better player every day. I have to.” — no one knows how long Jagr will continue to play at a high level.
“He’s always working on something whether it’s working out or walking around with weights on his ankles or a weighed vest,’’ goalie Roberto Luongo told SiriusXM Radio on Friday.
“He’s always doing something to push himself. ... It’s something you don’t see anywhere else, really. I don’t know how long he can play but probably until he’s 50.’’
Jagr appears to have been rejuvenated since joining the Panthers in February and paired with youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau and Barkov.
The trio were all scoring at about a point a game pace at the end of last season and have picked up where they left off.
Barkov, 20, has scored in each of the past two games and has five points.
Huberdeau, 22, has yet to score a goal but his play has been praised by coach Gerard Gallant. It seems to be only a matter of time before Huberdeau starts putting up points as well.
The Panthers have won 15 of 24 games since Jagr joined the team.
“He’s incredible out there and to see him at 43 still be one of the best players in the NHL is crazy,’’ Huberdeau also told SiriusXM Radio on Friday.
“He’s a legend in the NHL, you know the records. Last year, he was setting something every other game. It’s cool to have the chance to play with this guy.”
▪ Former NHL defenseman Hal Gill officially joined the Panthers organization on Friday by being named manager of player development.
Gill, who played in over 1,100 NHL games and won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, will work with former Florida captain Bryan McCabe in working with the Panthers’ prospects.
▪ The Panthers announced Friday they would match all donations up to $100,000 this fiscal year for the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County to benefit math, reading and homework help programs in Broward.
Saturday: Stars at Panthers
▪ When, Where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
▪ TV/Radio: FSN; WWNN 1470, WMEN 620, WNMA 1210
▪ Series: Tied 13-13-3
▪ Scouting report: This will be the first of two meetings between the two within a week as Florida visits Dallas next Saturday. The Stars swept the two-game series last season. Florida and Dallas came into Friday tied for second in the league with three wins each. Dallas’ 15 goals are tied for third in the league; Florida’s 14 are sixth.