45-year-old forward plays 13:38 in first NHL game in six months
LOS ANGELES — The first step back wasn’t easy for Calgary Flames right wing Jaromir Jagr, playing his first meaningful hockey game in six months.
His new team won in overtime, defeating the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 at Staples Center on Wednesday. It was Jagr’s 1,712th NHL game, fourth on the League’s all-time list. His 765 NHL goals are third behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801).
Jagr, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract Oct. 4, played 13:38, including 2:23 on the power play. He didn’t have a shot on goal and finished minus-1.
He was tired and somber afterward.
“I didn’t feel very well,” Jagr said. “But I expect that. I’m glad it’s behind me, so hopefully next game I feel better.”
“There were some shifts when we were able to play down low,” Jagr said. “It’s the way we should play. After my legs come back, it’s going to be a little bit different.”
Jagr did have a self-deprecating moment or two.
“I didn’t play for five, six months,” he said. “And I’m 45.”
Someone teased him that red is his color now that he is with the Flames.
“My face looks red,” he said, smiling.
His last NHL game was April 9, with the Florida Panthers. Some rust had to be expected. Even a 35-year-old would find it difficult with six months between games, missing training camp and skating for less than a week with new teammates.
“I think he had 13 minutes or so,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It’s the next step in his way back without a training camp. You can’t simulate what he got here tonight in those 13 minutes.
“We were aiming for 10 to 12, so he got a little bit more than that. We’re going to build. His game is going to come. This is a big building block to get into some real fire for a while.”
Forward Michael Frolik, who is from the same hometown (Kladno) in the Czech Republic as Jagr, said he has been watching his countryman closely after Jagr joined the Flames and is pleased to have another Czech teammate on hand.
“Obviously it’s interesting,” said Frolik, who had a goal and an assist against the Kings. “He’s such a big legend, and coming from the same hometown he was my idol growing up. It’s pretty exciting to be with him in the same room and watching what he does on the ice, off the ice, in practice.”
General manager Brad Treliving said Jagr quickly has fit in with the group.
“It’s Jaromir Jagr,” Treliving said. “Half the guys weren’t born when he was playing. Once he got in [here], he quickly became one of the guys and does his thing.
“Then they see him on the ice [and say] ‘This guy can help us.’ “