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Penguins Jagr hedges on status for tonight, says talk with Hlinka blown out of proportion

Monday, April 30, 2001

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Right winger Jaromir Jagr was noncommittal yesterday about whether he'll play when the Penguins meet Buffalo in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series tonight at 7:08 at Mellon Arena.

But he had a firm opinion on the attention his animated exchange with Coach Ivan Hlinka outside the Penguins' locker room at HSBC Arena before their 3-1 victory against the Sabres Saturday has received: He insists the incident has been blown way out of proportion.

Coach Ivan Hlinka walks away from Jaromir Jagr after their conversation Saturday before Game 2. (Harry Scull Jr., Associated Press)

"We were talking about the world championships, and how the Czechs played before," he said. "You [reporters] made a big deal, like we were fighting or something."

English-speaking observers could not determine what Jagr and Hlinka were discussing, because they were speaking Czech.

When talk will shift to what Jagr does on the ice instead of what happens while he's off it is hard to say.

Jagr, who apparently has a charley horse, sore groin and bad shoulder, initially said, "I don't think so," when asked if he expects to play tonight, then revised his assessment to, "I don't know if I'm going to play."

The Penguins have a 2-0 lead in the series but, as was the case between Games 1 and 2, Jagr said the status of the series will not have an impact on his decision about whether to dress.

"When I feel like I can help the team, be healthy enough to play, I'm going to play," he said. "I don't look at what the score is, or what the series is like. When I'm 40 or 50 percent able to play, I'm going to play."

A determination on when he can play, Jagr said, will be made in conjunction with team medical officials. "I'm going to tell them how I feel, and they're going to let me know if it's worth it to go on the ice, to play the game or not," he said.

Jagr skated during the Penguins' optional workout at Southpointe yesterday, but said there was "not really" any improvement in his charley horse. Time, he said, is the only treatment for such an injury.

In time, Jagr's exchange with Hlinka Saturday likely will be forgotten, too, although Jagr was adamant that it never should have been the subject of public discussion.

"We were talking about who scored the goals for the Czech Republic," Jagr said. "The Czechs won, 5-1, at the world championships yesterday. We talked about it, who's the coach, who's going to be coaching the Olympics."

After Game 2, Jagr had told a reporter his conversation with Hlinka had been about playing cards. Yesterday, when that apparent contradiction was mentioned, Jagr said that cards also had been discussed.

Jagr then was asked if Hlinka -- who characterized his exchange with Jagr as "nothing special" -- shouldn't have had more pressing concerns with the start of a playoff game so close.

At that point, Jagr terminated the interview.

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