Gerard Gallant smiled when asked about Jaromir Jagr ending his goal-scoring drought on Thursday night.
“It’s a good confidence builder for sure,” Gallant said.
Even one of the top goal scorers in the history of the NHL has his struggles, sometimes.
Jagr, 44, scored in Florida's penultimate game of the 2015-16 season before failing to find the back of the net in the next 10 —six postseason games and the first three games of this season — before scoring in the second period Thursday.
The goal was a big one, the 750th of his illustrious and Hall of Fame NHL career.
Only two others — Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky — have scored as many goals as Jagr has.
Yet ... with no goals in 10 games, even he appeared to be sweating it a little.
“One of the rules is, even when the puck isn’t going in, you have to keep working,” Jagr said Friday.
“Sometimes it’s not easy mentally; you work hard, you work hard and there’s no result. You have to stay patient. You want to be the guy who scores the first goal. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you need confidence. It’s easy to lose, but it’s easy to get back.”
Although Jagr went 10 games without a goal, that doesn't mean he wasn't effective nor have plenty of chances.
In Florida's opening night win, Jagr took seven shots on goal and took aim at the net a dozen times.
Through the first four games, Jagr has 12 shots on goal and has missed the net or had a shot blocked six more times.
There’s little doubt Jagr took his offseason conditioning as serious as ever this summer. Jagr came to camp looking at least 15 pounds lighter and his famous workouts have continued since getting back in Florida.
FACEBOOK VIDEO: Jaromir Jagr scores NHL goal No. 750 via One Panther Parkway
Following Friday’s practice, Jagr spent 20 minutes working on his on-ice conditioning with short-burst skating at center ice.
“Skating wise, this is the best I have felt in 15 years,” Jagr said. “I’m a little lighter but I wish I had more preseason games; I only played in two. I would have liked to have a few more to get used to playing lighter. It’s a different game. When you’re lighter, you’re not as strong and I have to learn to adjust. I started doing different things. But to gain speed, you lose power.”
Scoring has obviously been a big positive in Jagr's time in South Florida with the young Panthers although his off-ice work and guidance to young players has been extremely beneficial.
Not only have linemates Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Marchessault and Jonathan Huberdeau (out for the next few months after surgery on his Achilles' tendon) been subjects to the wisdom of Jagr, but it's no coincidence Denis Malgin — the youngest member of the team at 19 — has his locker stall next to Jagr at BB&T Center.
Well, it's actually next to Jagr's spare stall which is packed with equipment, clothes and tchotchkes.
“He definitely helps me sometimes,” Malgin said, pointing at Jagr's closet of stuff in the locker room. “It’s very cool. It’s crazy to be sitting here, right next to him. I grew up watching him.”
Said Gallant: “That’s a great thing to do; have the 19-year-old with the 44-year-old. It could his son. That’s perfect. It’s great for the kid to be there, see how the old pro does stuff.”
▪ Based on the Panthers recent successes, ESPN ranked Florida the seventh-best franchise among all North American professional sports teams in a recent survey.
Just two years ago, the Panthers were ranked 102nd out of 122 teams.
Florida moved into the top 50 last year and after setting franchise marks for wins and points, the Panthers charged into the top 10.
The Panthers are the third-ranked NHL team in the ESPN rankings, behind Tampa Bay (No. 1 overall) and Nashville (sixth).
▪ Jussi Jokinen missed practice Friday after leaving Thursday's game with a cut above his mouth after taking a high stick in the third period.
Gallant said Jokinen has also been dealing with a knee issue since representing Finland at the World Cup of Hockey.
“The dentist is checking him out,” Gallant said. “It’s a maintenance day for him; we’re not 100 percent sure he’ll play [Saturday] but we’ll know more then.”
Saturday: Avalanche at Panthers
▪ When/where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
▪ TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WZAB 880, WMYM 990 (Spanish).
▪ Series: Colorado leads 25-11-3.
▪ Scouting report: The Avalanche has things going early on this year. Colorado has won three of its first four — including Thursday’s 4-0 thrashing of the host Lightning. Colorado is seventh in the league averaging 3.5 goals per game and is eighth by allowing an average of 2.8 goals.