There are still three injured Flyers on the shelf, but Jaromir Jagr returned to the lineup Tuesday night and provided some hope for a healthy second half of the season for the team. Although the Flyers lost 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout, Jagr was pleased with his performance in 16:54 of ice time.
This is the fourth time Jagr has come back from a groin injury this season. The first three comebacks were one, 14 and seven games respectively. He’d like to get that number much higher, like maybe 33. That’s how many games are left after Tuesday night’s shootout loss to Winnipeg. All season he has been preaching the playoffs as his motivator for a comeback, but this time around, he’s got a few more goals besides postseason play.
“My goal is to play the way I can — at least what I think I can,” said Jagr, who has 12 goals and 23 assists in 41 games. “That would make me happy. Maybe help [Claude Giroux] to win the scoring title. Maybe help [Scott Hartnell] to have the best season ever. That’s my goals.”
He didn’t get to accomplish that on Tuesday night, though. Wayne Simmonds took his spot on the first line to start the game. Meanwhile Jagr played with Matt Read and Brayden Schenn to ease him into the game and he got an assist in the process.
“I was glad to play,” Jagr said. “It didn't matter what line. I was glad to play for the first time in 10 days. Probably it was better for me to start on a different line. Probably less pressure and I can slowly get into the game.”
The new trio also served as the second power play unit and — after half of the first period went by without a shot from either team — it tallied late in the period for the game’s first goal.
“It was a nice cross-ice pass by Jags,” Schenn said. “Matty Carle found me out front for a tip. The puck was sitting under the goalie I really didn't know where it was. I just banged away and the puck crossed the line by about an inch."
The Flyers didn’t get a shot until the 6:25 mark of the second period either, but the Jets got things going and evened the score with a Chris Thorburn wristshot from the right wing. He took a cross-ice pass from Nik Antropov and beat Ilya Bryzgalov glove-side.
In the first two meetings between the Flyers and Jets, 27 goals were scored. But on Tuesday night, that offensive firepower was nowhere to be found until the Flyers applied pressure in the third period. They shook off the rust of the All-Star break and outshot the Jets 13-4 in the final stanza, but couldn’t beat Ondrej Pavelec in the third period, overtime, or the shootout.
By the third period, Jagr had rejoined Giroux and Hartnell on the top unit and had a few chances to put the team ahead late in regulation. Jagr had another opportunity to put the Flyers ahead in the shootout, but was stopped stick-side by Pavelec when he went third in the shootout, much to his chagrin. He doesn’t like getting picked for the shootout and said the puck rolled off his stick before he could get the shot he wanted.
While he may not have been the hero, he was thankful to return to the lineup healthy and, he hopes, continue to stay that way.
“I feel good,” Jagr said. “I was a little bit tired in the third period. I was playing a lot for a guy who didn’t play for a long time. Every other shift I was on the ice in the last 10 minutes.”
Danny Briere has survived 14 seasons in the NHL as an undersized scorer because he says he’s been able to avoid taking big hits.
On Jan. 21 against the New Jersey Devils, No. 48 may as well have been a bulls-eye. Noted hitter, defenseman Anton Volchenkov, leveled the Flyers center for three of the five hits he took on the night.
“I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t see him coming,” Briere said. “I know he’s good at it, but usually that’s part of my game. I’m able to protect myself and I never saw him coming.
“I know the last one that left me losing my balance and left me out there a little bit.”
Briere returned to practice on Monday without contact, but had light headaches. He made it through Tuesday morning’s skate without symptoms. He passed his ImPACT test, but doesn’t have a set return date.
Concussed winger James van Riemsdyk took part in both practices as well, but remains out indefinitely.