Sep 23, 2011, 6:19 PM EDT
With 1,273 regular season games and 169 playoff contests under his belt, it’s a stretch to call tonight’s exhibition against the Detroit Red Wings an “important” one for Jaromir Jagr. That being said, the future Hall of Famer does have his fair share of rust to shake off after spending three years away from the NHL during his KHL sojourn.
Most consider the Philadelphia Flyers’ season opener on Oct. 6 to be Jagr’s true chance to debut with the team, but tonight marks the first time he’ll formally compete against an opposing NHL squad in a Flyers uniform.
It would be enough of an adjustment if Jagr only had to deal with the increased skill level, size and speed of NHL players, but for a player who can dominate puck possession as he often does, the dimensions of the rink are relevant too. Tonight’s game against the Red Wings will give Jagr a little time to get used to playing on a smaller North American ice surface again. The last time he played extensively on NHL-sized rinks was the 2010 Olympics, a tournament in which he performed well but also suffered from a memorably brutal check by Alex Ovechkin.
“I just want (to use this time to) getting used to the North American rinks (again),” Jagr told the media in Detroit on Friday. “The North American game and European game are two totally different games with the same rules. You have to skate a lot more, skate differently and you cannot be that aggressive. Most of the teams play the trap (in the NHL), and it’s more aggressive in Europe.”
“I want to adjust as quick as I can to the NHL style of hockey again,” he said. “I want to learn and find out again where to skate, how to skate, how to play … sometimes it’s different and I need to get the timing and speed of the game back.”
Jagr’s one of the most interesting wild cards of the 2011-12 season. He could be worth every penny of his $3.3 million salary if he clicks with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, whom he reportedly lined up with frequently during training camp.
If nothing else, it should be a fascinating show to watch – and dress rehearsals begin tonight.
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