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Jagr on reconciliation with Pens: ‘Not in my control’

Guest Irishjim

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VOORHEES, N.J. -- Jaromir Jagr said today a happy ending between he and the Penguins is "not in my control."

Jagr, the second leading scorer in Penguins history, will face the Penguins as a member of their archrival Philadelphia Flyers in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 1 is Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.

Jagr said he expects to hear jeers in games of the series that are played in Pittsburgh.

However, he maintained he is not at fault for hard feelings by Penguins fans who feel scorned by his decision to return to the NHL this season with the Flyers, even though Jagr flirted with the idea of a comeback with the Penguins, who are owned by his professed "idol," Mario Lemieux.

"In my opinion I didn't do anything wrong to hurt anybody," Jagr said today after a practice session. "But the other side is saying the same thing."

Jagr won an MVP and five scoring titles with the Penguins, for whom he played from 1990-2001. He was captain in 2001 when he requested a trade.

He spent the previous three seasons in Russia's KHL before deciding on a comeback last summer. The Penguins, Red Wings and Canadiens were teams that pursued him before Jagr and his camp reached out to the Flyers on the eve of free agency.

Just before noon on July 1 the Penguins pulled their one-year, $2 million offer to Jagr. He signed with the Flyers for $3.3 million.

General manager Ray Shero said then he thought reuniting Jagr with the organization with whom he is most associated was a easy decision, but Jagr said today he did not feel he would receive the same hockey opportunity with the Penguins that he has the Flyers.

Jagr did not speak Monday after the Flyers' first playoff practice, and he seemed irked at questions today about his topsy-turvy offseason decision to join the Flyers instead of his former franchise.

"I've answered this question a million times," he said. "This is the last time I'm going to answer this.

"I wanted to have some kind of responsibility on the team and to be able to play a lot. I felt this was going to be my best choice because this was a brand new team with a lot of new pieces, and I was going to have a fair chance like everybody else. If I come to the team where they won the Stanley Cup and were all set for the last five years, the lines were set, where was I going to play? I might be playing on a third or fourth line, and I didn't come back to play on a third or fourth line. I'm not good there."

Jagr, 40, produced 19 goals and 54 points in 73 games as a top-line winger with the Flyers.

Jagr has suggested he believes Lemieux, the Penguins majority co-owner and his former teammate, is upset with his decision.

Lemieux could not be reached for comment, though close friends have told the Tribune-Review he is not upset with Jagr's decision.

The Penguins did not remove any images of Jagr from Consol Energy Center this season. He remains a presence inside and outside their dressing room in the form of wall decorations, and his name is present on two banners that represent the franchise's 14 individual scoring titles.

Jagr did not deny he would at some point prefer a public reconciliation with the Penguins and their fans.

"But like I've been saying those are things I don't control," he said. "First of all it's not in my mind right now. On my mind is playoff hockey, to kind of help this team to beat Pittsburgh. It's going to be tough. That's my main focus right now."

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I'd like to see him come back to be honored down the road. I forgave signing with Philly a long time ago. It's the way he left that really sticks with people. Signing with the Flyers didn't help but in an of itself, that's not a hangin' offense. His departure signaled the end of an era and...well...we all know the events that took place after that. ;)

But 5-7 years after he retires...I'm all for a Jagr night and sending 68 to the rafters.

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