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Penguins Lemieux: Jagr can do better

Says run at the Cup hinges on more productive captain

Thursday, April 26, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Mario Lemieux wants more production from Jaromir Jagr in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"I talked to him a bit in the past couple of days, and we're certainly going to need him to play at the level he's been playing at for the past two years and to pick up his game a little bit," Lemieux said yesterday. "I think we need him to play a little bit better for us to have a chance to go all the way. He's got to elevate his game and be a leader."

Jagr, the Penguins' captain, was the NHL's scoring champion during the regular season despite experiencing more emotional turmoil than at any point in his career. He had a goal and five assists in six postseason games against the Washington Capitals.

Lemieux deferred when asked about Jagr's psychological state at the moment.

"Psychologically, you'd have to ask him," Lemieux said. "Hopefully, he's happy. I mean, this is the best time of his life. He's a young guy who has had a great career so far. He's making $10 million a year. This has to be the best time of his life, and I'm not so sure he realizes that."

It is possible the much-publicized notion that the Penguins might trade Jagr in the off-season has turned out to be a distraction, but Lemieux doesn't think so.

"It's not definitive yet that he's going to be gone next year," Lemieux said. "Obviously, we would love to keep all of our top guys here. But as you understand, this is a business, and we have a budget next year that we have to stick to. Obviously, we'll try to sign everybody and be creative. But if we can't do that, then we're going to make changes. But I don't think that should affect the way he's thinking this year or the way he's playing in the playoffs. He's here right now. He's a part of this franchise, has been for the past 10 years."

Jagr left the ice halfway through the Penguins' practice yesterday at Mellon Arena, offering only a joking explanation that he had "a bad hairdo." He is not believed to have an injury that would keep him from playing tonight.

Before Lemieux made his comments yesterday, Jagr was asked about having six points in the first round.

"I'm not looking for myself," he said. "That's not the way I play. I'd do anything just to win, to try to help the team win. If that means scoring goals or passing the puck or playing good defense, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not looking to score a lot of goals. Last year, I scored eight goals in eight games, and it didn't matter because we lost in the second round. That's not the way to play."

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