Panthers forward is League’s oldest active player

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, the oldest active player in the NHL, made light of his age as he celebrated his birthday Monday.

On the day he turned 44, he was asked whether he still feels like he’s 34.

“Twenty-four,” Jagr quickly replied, speaking after the morning skate in preparation for a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at BB&T Center. “I feel 24 today. It doesn’t matter how many birthdays you’ve had in your life. It’s all a matter of how you feel.

“I feel the same I felt at 34, so to me it doesn’t matter.”

To Jagr’s teammates, the latest birthday is a big deal.

“It’s unbelievable,” said 2015 Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad, who turned 20 on Feb. 7. “More than twice my age, 200 goals on the day I was born. I keep seeing all these statistics and all the milestones that he’s making, it’s really an inspiration to do well in this League and be around for a long time. He’s shown that you can stick around forever and you can be an impact player for a long time.”

With an appearance Monday when the Panthers face the Penguins, Jagr will become the fifth non-goalie to play in a NHL game at 44 years old or older, joining Gordie Howe (52 years, 11 days), Chris Chelios (48 years, 71 days), Doug Harvey (44 years, 100 days) and Tim Horton (44 years, 39 days). Jagr and Howe are the only two forwards on the list.

The second-oldest active NHL player is New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias, who turns 40 on April 13.

Jagr has 17 goals and 40 points in 53 games this season to lead the Panthers in scoring. He has 739 goals in his career and needs two goals to tie Brett Hull for No. 3 on the League’s all-time scoring list.

“Sometimes we’ll call him old and tease him, but not often,” said forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who turns 23 on June 4. “You can’t really tease a legend.

“It’s fun to have a guy who’s 44. That’s impressive. It’s probably only going to happen once in my career to play with a guy like that, so it’s great to live that with him.”

After getting birthday wishes from reporters Monday, Jagr jokingly asked why nobody had brought a present. He also hadn’t gotten anything at that time from his teammates, although he joked, “They got time … they got time.”

It’s the seventh time in his NHL career, which began in the 1990-91 season with Pittsburgh, in which he’ll be playing on his birthday.

Jagr last played on his birthday in 2013 when he was a member of the Dallas Stars. He was held without a point that day against the Vancouver Canucks.

Jagr’s 1,100th career assist

Jagr has two goals and four assists in his other six games on his birthday. The most memorable birthday came in 1999 when he had a goal and three assists for the Penguins against the Washington Capitals.

“When I was younger I always scored on my birthday,” Jagr said. “Actually, I scored almost every game. When you’re older … I don’t remember the last time I scored on my birthday.”

Veteran forward Shawn Thornton, 38, is teammates with Jagr for the second time after playing with him with the Boston Bruins at the end of the 2012-13 season.

“Who knows, I never thought I’d see the day where we’d say somebody could play till they’re 50 since Gordie Howe retired, but if anybody has got a chance, it’s him I think,” Thornton said. “He’s still moving around out there. He’s still making plays. He’s still scoring goals. I’m impressed.

“He told me he was 43 when he was in Boston, so I don’t know. … How many times can you turn 45? I don’t know what’s going on. How old is he now for real — 45, 44? He’s still doing it, though, isn’t he?”

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