Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Jaromir Jagr poised to pass Mark Messier for No. 2 on NHL points list

TORONTO — Jaromir Jagr has impressed NHL great Mark Messier for more than a quarter of a century.

"When (Jagr) came into Pittsburgh, he dazzled us with his power and his skill and his overall game," Messier said. "Later on in his career, he's kind of inspired us with his passion and dedication. He's played long enough to understand what the game means to him as a person and as a player."

Poised to be overtaken by Jagr, 44, for second place on the NHL points list, Messier reflected Thursday about the Czech star's accomplishment in what has become increasingly a young man's game.

"The only way you can play and do what he's doing right now is to make sure you are putting in the time for your conditioning and taking care of yourself," Messier said. "The game has to be the No. 1 priority in your life because it takes a lot time to prepare each and every game, let alone each and every season. You've got to give Jaromir a lot of credit for what he's been able to do early in his career, and then maybe even more credit for how he's been able to sustain himself."

Jagr has six goals and 10 assists this season for the Panthers.

Messier, who passed Gordie Howe's point total of 1,850 for second place in his final NHL season in 2003-04, finished with 1,887 points. Jagr grabbed third place from Howe in March and has 1,884 after assisting on a goal in Florida's 4-3 shootout loss at Winnipeg on Thursday night. Wayne Gretzky holds the record with 2,857 points.

"I'm still the most surprised person that I have been sitting at No. 2 for this amount of time," Messier said on a conference call. "I didn't really consider myself an elite scorer like a Mario Lemieux or a Wayne Gretzky. I never considered myself that kind of player. It was quite humbling for me to be passing some of those names on that top-10 list. I actually couldn't believe it."

Jagr joined the Penguins in 1990 and won two Stanley Cups alongside Lemieux. He has gone onto play for seven more NHL franchises, and he also spent three seasons in Europe's KHL, where he amassed 146 points.

Messier scored his 1,887 points in 1,756 NHL games. Jagr has suited up 1,660 times in North America.

"This is kind of anticlimactic for me in a way," Messier said. "I understand the amount of time he put in overseas. In my own mind he surpassed me a long time ago."

Jagr has mused about playing until the age of 50. Messier retired at 44 — the same as Jagr is now — and said there's no sign Jagr is slowing.

"He's still hustling to get the puck and retrieve the puck," said Messier, who spent half a season as Jagr's teammate with the Rangers. "He's still covering a lot of ice when he's out there. He's still very powerful.

"His down-low game, his cycle game, I don't know if there's been anyone ever better. As a superstar you think of a dynamic, open-ice player that can beat you one-on-one. He does that .…(just) in smaller areas."

Messier has occupied the top of the points list with Gretzky, his friend and teammate with the Oilers, for more than a decade. He said there's nothing bittersweet about Jagr's inevitable move into second.

"To be anywhere in that top echelon of players is incredible," Messier said. "I look at it as an opportunity for me to pass the baton on to Jaromir and hopefully now with the rest of the players to inspire the next generation."

Comments
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, local players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But hockey?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Winnipeg Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forwar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Published: 06/23/18
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Published: 06/23/18
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Published: 06/23/18
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Published: 06/22/18
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Published: 06/22/18
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Published: 06/22/18
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18