This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the League
With his 13th goal of the season last night, Jaromir Jagr passed Phil Esposito to move into sole possession of fifth place on the NHL's all-time career goals list with 718, and now sits 13 behind Marcel Dionne.
If the 43-year-old Jagr plays another season, he'll almost certainly pass Dionne, but that's uncertain at this point, especially since Jagr retired from international hockey last summer. Brett Hull is 23 goals away, which isn't outside the realm of possibility but it certainly will be difficult to achieve. The Devils were a good fit for Jagr; there was less travel in the Eastern Conference, the team was slow, which matched his preferred style of play, and most of his teammates were happy to let him handle the offense.
But how dominant was he back in the day? Of the three active goal scorers in the top 50 of the NHL's all-time list, Jagr sits well ahead of Jarome Iginla (582, 19th) and Marian Hossa (485, t-46th). Alex Ovechkin sits 54th all-time with 467 goals, 251 away from Jagr and will need to score 50 goals in each of the next five seasons (until he's age 34) to match Jagr's total. Considering that 50 has been a pretty good bench mark for the league's annual leading goal scorer, it will be very difficult for Ovechkin to reach the same level. Let's not also forget that Jagr chose to leave the NHL for three seasons when he was still a point-per-game player, and lost another full season due to two half-season NHL lockouts. Had it not been for his self-imposed exile, Jagr would've had the chance to join Wayne Gretzky as the only player to score over 800 goals, 1200 assists and 2000 points.
Without a doubt, Jagr will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes. The league doesn't feature as many goals as it used to, and history has a way of making the fleetest of old memories feel as valuable as gold, but Jagr was one of the very best in league history.
As synonymous as no. 99 is with Gretzky, so will no. 68 with Jagr. The league won't retire Jagr's 68 league-wide (Melker Karlsson currently wears it, as does Mike Hoffman, though presumably they're assigned rookie numbers), but it's important to remember that unlike Gretzky's gimmicky solution to copy his idol Howe's no. 9, Jagr's no. 68 is meant to commemorate his grandfather who died in prison during the Prague Spring. It was always interesting, at least to me, that someone who cared so deeply about the past and was so loyal to whatever principles that guided him could end up playing for so many different teams, even turning down a potential return to Pittsburgh, where it all began.
As mystifying as Jagr was on the ice with his skill, he was equally a mystery off it. His workout routines in the middle of the night were legendary, but controversy has followed him everywhere, from the "coach killer" label in Washington to prolonged rumors of unpaid taxes and gambling debts. His brief three-year stint to the KHL was of interest, too, since this was the time Jagr claimed to have rekindled his love for the game and become much more open about his religious views as a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, even though most Czechs claim to be non-religious. With the advent of 24/7 social media, it's still quite amazing that Jagr can carry that sort of mysterious aura around him. He's certainly a rare breed, one that will never be seen again.
(No. 1 highlight clearly deserves its spot, but my personal favorite was No. 2. Steven Stamkos actually did something similar six years ago against the Ducks. Absolutely sick hand-eye.)
On a final note, some sad news to touch on as the hockey world learns of the passing of Matthew Wuest, the Metro Halifax reporter who was behind CapGeek.com. Wuest died from a lengthy battle with colon cancer. As a hockey writer, especially one that focuses so much on team prospects and organizational depth charts, CapGeek was an invaluable resource and it will be missed dearly. Condolences to Wuest's friends and family.
Friday game notes:
- Keith Kinkaid draws the start for the Devils against a Sabres team that is suddenly playing a lot better. Anders Lindback was brilliant in his last start in a 2-1 shootout win over Boston so he should get the nod. Buffalo's new duo of Johan Larsson (six points in four games) and Tyler Ennis (four points in four games) has been red-hot, so Kinkaid certainly has his work cut out for him. If there's any night to roll with a Sabres goalie, tonight would be that night. Lindback has not posted a save percentage lower than .909 since coming to Buffalo.
- The Red Wings are slumping and Jimmy Howard allowed seven goals in his previous start, including four on even strength. Ben Bishop will likely get the nod and has the advantage with the Lightning being winners in four of their past seven and getting home ice. Pavel Datsyuk will not play, which hurts the Wings even more. Howard is just one of six goalies playing tonight, so if fantasy owners need some stats, he's a justifiable start.
- John Gibson has won three straight games and six of his past seven so Bruce Boudreau would have to be crazy to start Frederik Andersen, who is probably the better goalie on any given day. But Gibson has the hot hand, allowing just five goals in his past three games. The danger here is that Gibson has a potential to just blow up and allow a bunch of goals, but that is the same scenario with Semyon Varlamov. Both players carry some risk, but the Ducks are clearly the better team and have home-ice advantage.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
New Jersey Devils (Keith Kinkaid*) at Buffalo Sabres (Anders Lindback), 7:00 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard*) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov) at Anaheim Ducks (John Gibson), 10:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Friday
Evander Kane, LW (shoulder surgery) – out for the season.
Cody McCormick, C (blood clots) – likely out for the season.
Chad Johnson, G (lower body) – no timetable for return.
Josh Gorges, D (lower body) – no timetable for return.
Zemgus Girgensons, C (ankle) – no timetable for return.
Zach Bogosian, D (lower body) – no return date set.
Andrej Meszaros, D (hand) – practiced Thursday; questionable.
Patrick Kaleta, RW (knee) – practiced Thursday; questionable.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat, LW (foot) – game-time decision; probable.
Cedric Paquette, C (upper body) – practiced Thursday; no return date set.
Braydon Coburn, D (lower body) – no timetable for return.
Jamie McGinn, LW (back) – out for the season.
Ryan Wilson, D (shoulder surgery) – out for the season.
Jesse Winchester, LW (concussion) – likely out for the season.
Borna Rendulic, RW (broken leg) – no return date set.
Nathan MacKinnon, C (fractured foot) – out 6-8 weeks.
Erik Johnson, D (knee) – did not travel, will not play.
Joey Hishon, C (neck) – did not play Thursday; questionable.
Patrick Bordeleau, LW (knee) – practiced Thursday; questionable.
Korbinian Holzer, D (concussion) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Sami Vatanen, D (lower body) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Tim Jackman, RW (lower body) – out one week.
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist) – out for the season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Oilers – It's the Nuge!!! Even though the Oilers have lost eight of their past nine games, the former first overall pick has really lived up to the billing with a four-game point streak totaling a goal and six assists. This is RNH's third 50-point season in the NHL but the first in which he's scored 20 goals. He's an outstanding playmaker who's unfortunately stuck in a terrible situation, but he's an elite offensive talent with poor peripheral stats. RNH and Jordan Eberle (12 points in six games) are tied at the hip these days so when one of them gets hot, so does the other.
Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks – Elite players aren't featured in this space very often because they're consistently good, but Toews recently set a career-high with four points against the Islanders. As per his usual self, he's been a monster in the peripheral categories, too, with a plus-5 rating and 54 faceoff wins, third-most over the past week.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Penguins – It's a bad, bad time for the Pens to be slipping now that they're tied with the Capitals for third in the Metro Division. A slip to the wild card spot could mean the difference between a dance between the Islanders (good team) or Rangers/Lightning/Canadiens (two really good teams and Carey Price). Fleury has been alternating starts with Thomas Greiss and posted another loss last night in Dallas. Fleury has just three wins in six appearances in March.
Kyle Okposo, RW, Islanders – The detached retina that kept Okposo out since Jan. 19 is clearly still affecting him. Through four games, Okposo has yet to register a point and has a minus-7 rating in that span. The big power forward was in line for another 60-point season with 44 points in 55 games but will have to wait until next year to do so.
Derek Dorsett, RW, Canucks – Any Canucks fan can tell you that Willie Desjardins loves his Medicine Hat boys. Dorsett has been a Swiss army knife player for the Canucks, hitting everything in sight, playing on the power play and dropping the gloves. Though he didn't extend his points streak to three games last night, he did pick up a fighting major. With 23 points, consistent playing time and 15 (!!!) majors on the season, he's a good source of penalty minutes for fantasy owners looking for an extra edge without giving up too much scoring going.