Penguins notebook: Jagr candidly reflects on early years here


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In a candid, introspective interview -- one punctuated by frequent smiles and laughter -- winger Jaromir Jagr admitted he might have been a tad self-centered early in his career with the Penguins.

Jagr was at Consol Energy Center for the season opener between his new team, the New Jersey Devils, and the Penguins. The Devils are considered a buttoned-down franchise, a reflection of team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

"I knew there were strict rules and everybody has to follow it," Jagr said after the Devils game-day skate. "I don't mind it at all. Maybe it would be different for me 15 years ago, but, right now, I agree with that.

"Whatever Lou tries to do, he wants everybody to feel important on the team, even the guys on the fourth line, the same as the players on the first line."

Perhaps Jagr, 41 and a future Hall of Famer, has grown more conservative. Or maybe he has matured.

"People think differently when they are younger," he said. "I'm not saying everybody, but I think you're more selfish when you're younger, especially if there is pressure on you and you have to produce.

"You want to be treated differently. At least, that's the way I was, I guess. Now I see I was wrong."

Jagr has been booed regularly when he plays here since he was traded away in 2001, but he seems to harbor no ill will against those fans.

"They always loved the Steelers. Now, they love the Pirates. Mario [Lemieux] brought the fans for hockey," he said. "I never really had any issues with the fans. They supported us so well over the years I was here. We made the playoffs every year, so they were more excited about the hockey here. They're crazy sports fans, and that's good."

Jagr had no reaction when asked about a change in the Penguins locker room. Sometime between the Eastern Conference final, when Jagr and the Boston Bruins swept the Penguins, and the start of this season, a picture of Jagr that was part of a ring of honor above players' lockers was covered with a picture of another former star Penguins winger, Mark Recchi.

Jagr just shrugged it off.

Brodeur defends Fleury

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury grew up admiring Martin Brodeur, and the Devils future Hall of Fame goaltender has taken notice of Fleury's much-documented playoff struggles the past few seasons.

Brodeur, who did not start a New Jersey opener for the first time in 19 years Thursday night, believes Fleury can regain the form that he had in helping the Penguins win the 2009 Stanley Cup.

"I like the way he plays," Brodeur said. "I like his style of play and everything. I think it's always a little tough when you don't perform as well as people think you can. Your expectations ... sometimes, it snowballs on you a little bit.

"It's unfortunate. I felt for him when it happened. He's a good friend of mine. But it's part of being a goalie. Consistency is a major thing. You can be good one year, but you need to be good every year. For him, I think it's that a little bit.

"He's shown that he's able to play well. You don't make two trips to the Stanley Cup finals because you should get pulled in a playoff series. ... It's an unfortunate situation for him. He'll get back on track."

Brodeur suggested that breakdowns in the Penguins' defensive play could have hindered Fleury.

"You can tell that how he explodes out of control sometimes," Brodeur said. "That means that he doesn't know what's going on, really. That means just moving as quickly as possible and getting himself out of position.

"When he had teams that were maybe a little more tight, you don't have to make these types of saves, so it doesn't get into you. I've played on teams like that. It got chaotic. At one point, you're losing yourself in there, and it just kind of snowballs and you can't play your game.

"Maybe that's what happened to him."

NHL milestone for Adams

The fact that the game Thursday night was the 800th in the NHL for Penguins winger Craig Adams, 36, snuck up on him.

"I forgot," he said, then smiled. "It's good. I think it's something to be proud of. It takes a long time. I guess it shows that I'm pretty old."

Tip-ins

Penguins right winger James Neal was in the lineup and took his regular spot beside Evgeni Malkin. He missed the game-day skate and practice Wednesday because of an unspecified injury. ... The Penguins' healthy scratches were center Joe Vitale and defenseman Deryk Engelland. ... The game was the Penguins' 287th sellout in a row, dating to Feb. 14, 2007. ... For October, the Penguins are wearing Hockey Fights Cancer stickers on their helmets.

penguins

The Post-Gazette's Seth Rorabaugh contributed. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published October 4, 2013 4:00 AM


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