Penguins notebook: Crosby gives Jagr's work high praise

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NEWARK, N.J. -- Sidney Crosby impresses a lot of people with the things he does on a sheet of ice.

There are at least a few players, including 41-year-old New Jersey right winger Jaromir Jagr, who have the same effect on him.

"I don't know how he's doing it," Crosby said. "Guys like him and [Anaheim's Teemu] Selanne, to not just be playing, but contributing and producing at the rate they are is pretty impressive. Whatever their secret is, I'd love to know it.

"It's pretty amazing, I don't think they get enough credit for what they're doing at their age."

Jagr had five goals and nine assists in 19 games before the Penguins and Devils played Saturday night at the Prudential Center.

He is the No. 8 scorer in NHL history, with 1,702 points in 1,410 games before facing the Penguins.

"He works hard off the ice, he works hard on the ice," Penguins right winger Pascal Dupuis said. "He's dedicated to his game. You see his stats, with the way he has played. It's a heck of a career."

Jagr isn't the force of nature he was in the prime of his career, of course, but still performs at a high enough level to be the Devils' leading scorer.

"I wouldn't say [players such as Jagr and Selanne] are getting better, but they find a way to stay productive," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "If you look at them all, their games are probably a little different than they used to be.

"Those guys are all extremely intelligent players, and that helps them maybe make up for things that have slowed down on them."

Fleury in goal for good reason

Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal against the Devils, which means he started on consecutive nights for the first time this season.

Fleury faced 18 shots in the 4-1 victory against Nashville Friday at Consol Energy Center, and coach Dan Bylsma made it clear the limited number of scoring opportunities the Penguins have allowed in recent weeks was a factor in his decision.

"Part of the rationale at this point in time is that the workload during the games has not been real taxing," he said. "We've given up five scoring chances, seven scoring chances. That really has played into some of the decisions."

Nonetheless, with the Penguins in an 11-games-in-18-days stretch, Bylsma added that "we're going to see [rookie backup goalie Jeff] Zatkoff play some games."

Zajac struggles to score

New Jersey is one of the NHL's most offensively challenged clubs, averaging just two goals through its first 19 games.

The Devils aren't particularly gifted up front, and one of their most talented forwards, Travis Zajac, has not been producing to expectations.

He entered the Saturday night game with two goals and four assists in 17 games, although coach Pete DeBoer said he is confident Zajac's game has been coming together of late.

"I think it's definitely improved," DeBoer said. "He's playing with more offensive confidence. Jagr has helped him with that.

"He seems to have found some chemistry there.

"They hop over the boards with the expectation of creating offense, where maybe five or 10 games ago, that wasn't the case."

Neal starts to find his game

Penguins right winger James Neal, who missed 15 games with an unspecified injury after taking five shifts in the season opener Oct. 3, appeared in his fourth consecutive game Saturday night.

And while he still feels some effects of his extended layoff, Neal said he is beginning to put them behind him.

"I feel a lot better," he said. "Only playing two minutes in the first game [after] having the whole summer, then another month off, is tough.

"After skating and getting ready to get back, now, after a few games, I'm starting to get my wind back, and conditioning and game shape."


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.

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