Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils needs one goal to tie Steve Yzerman for eighth place on the NHL's all-time scoring list, and had nice things to say Friday about Yzerman.
Jagr had even more nice things to say about Ron Francis.
Jagr and Francis were teammates and linemates with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990s, winning two Stanley Cups. It was Francis, now the Canes' vice president of hockey operations, who was the center who set up many of Jagr's goals, who became both a friend and someone for Jagr to try and emulate.
"People think a lot about us playing on a line with Mario (Lemieux) and I never did. I was playing with Ron Francis," Jagr said after the Devils’ morning skate. "I was playing with Mario on the power play, but five on five Ronnie Francis was my center for seven, eight years. He probably assisted on most of the goals I scored.
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"The thing is, he gave me the extra confidence. Sometimes you go into a game and you have to score goals and you don't feel right. But I had him. So I never felt I wasn't going to score. Even if I didn't feel well I knew if I played bad he can make me look good.
"That's what I want to be for the guys I play with."
Jagr recalled a game when he closing in on his first NHL scoring title. Francis, he said, was ill but played so that Jagr wouldn't fall short.
"One of the good things about him was he never showed weakness," Jagr said. "He never showed you he didn't feel right. I don't think he went for a whole year (feeling) perfect. He'd act like that so it would give you extra confidence when you played.
"I remember I needed a point for the title and I think he had the flu. He shouldn't have played but he played anyway for me, so I would feel comfortable. I won the scoring (title). That's the kind of guy he was. He didn’t tell me until after the game.”
Jagr scored his 691st career goal Wednesday in the 4-3 loss to the Canes to move past Lemieux into ninth place on the career list. Yzerman is next with 692 and Mark Messier seventh at 694.
"If they call Gordie Howe 'Mister Hockey' I think they have to call Steve 'Mr. Gentleman,'" Jagr said. "He was a gentleman on the ice and off the ice, too. He was a super center ice (man) and he was a gentleman, also.
"Him and Ron Francis, they were dominating but they were nice guys on the ice. You don't have to be tough to be good."