Old men Jagr, Brodeur renew rivalry

Associated Press Modified: April 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm •  Published: April 28, 2012
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VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) — Jaromir Jagr's long hair that once flowed beneath his helmet is much shorter now, and his playoff beard has plenty of gray in it.

Like the man he'll be shooting pucks at in the next round of the playoffs, Jagr is the old man in the dressing room these days. But both Jagr and Martin Brodeur have shown they have plenty of game left.

The familiar foes will meet again when the Philadelphia Flyers open the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.

"It's going to be special, that's for sure," Jagr said. "He's going to turn 40 and I'm already 40."

Jagr and Brodeur were selected in the same round of the 1990 NHL entry draft. The Pittsburgh Penguins chose Jagr, the tall, slender forward from Czechoslovakia, with the fifth overall pick. Brodeur, the skinny goalie from Montreal, went to the Devils at No. 20.

Great moves for both teams.

"He's been a great player for a lot of years," Brodeur said. "It's a pleasant surprise that he can play this well at this level in the NHL after being away. He's always been a tough player to go up against. It's a big challenge, but we can't focus on one guy. We can't say that if we just take care of Jagr, we'll be in good shape. They have a ton of players who can create problems for us."

Jagr teamed with Mario Lemieux to help lead the Penguins to a pair of Stanley Cup championships as a teenager his first two seasons in 1991-92. He won an MVP award and five scoring titles in 11 seasons with Pittsburgh before going to Washington and the New York Rangers. He returned to the NHL last summer, signing with the Flyers after a three-year stint in Russia.

Jagr had 19 goals and 35 assists for 54 points in the regular season, helping a young team that had dramatically changed its roster with his veteran leadership and his skills. Jagr showed no signs of slowing down in the playoffs, recording a goal and six assists in Philadelphia's first-round victory over the Penguins in six games.

"You're talking about a terrific hockey player who has come in here and provided terrific leadership and work ethic," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I've really enjoyed having him here. The way he's played the game really speaks for itself."

Jagr turned down an offer from the Penguins to join the Flyers because he thought it was a better opportunity. Many others would've chosen to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But Jagr made the right choice.

"I came back from Russia to have a chance to play in the playoffs and go far in the playoffs," Jagr said. "I want to help this team to win."

Then there's Brodeur.

He's a four-time Vezina Trophy winner and a nine-time All-Star who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships.

Brodeur will celebrate his 40th birthday next Sunday when the teams play Game 4 of their series in New Jersey. He had 31 wins, a 2.41 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in the regular season.

After getting pulled in Game 3 of the opening-round series against Florida, Brodeur rebounded with a record-setting 24th playoff shutout in Game 4. He was excellent in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 6, and brilliant in a 3-2 double-overtime victory in Game 7. Brodeur made 43 saves in the final game, including several that kept the Devils alive.

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