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Penguins Despite pain, Jagr playful in return

Thursday, May 03, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Jaromir Jagr was asked how his ailing shoulder held up through the Penguins' 5-2 loss in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Buffalo Sabres last night.

And he turned around to knock on the wooden door to his locker.

"It wasn't that bad," he said. "Probably the worst thing was that the pills made me tired, made me sleepy."

Jaromir Jagr went in disguise to meet reporters yesterday after the morning skate. (KDKA-TV2)

Shortly before the opening faceoff, Jagr was given painkilling medication to numb his injured shoulder which forced him to miss the previous two games. And despite a determined effort, it showed in his work.

He logged a team-high 20 minutes, 24 seconds of ice time and created some offense, registering an assist on defenseman Janne Laukkanen's second-period goal. But he finished with only one shot and his play tailed off as the game wore on, presumably because of the effects of the medication. Jagr suggested he might switch to taking an injection rather than pills for Game 5 Saturday in Buffalo.

"Obviously, you don't feel great after missing two games and coming back to play," Jagr said. "But I felt good enough to play."

Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek noticed Jagr's difficulty.

"He had one great chance on me in the first period, and I saw that he didn't want to take the shot, so he passed it to someone else," Hasek said. "That was when I knew something was wrong. I can't say for sure how much something was wrong, but you could see it was."

Earlier in the day, Jagr was in excellent spirits, cracking up a media horde by donning a mask to make himself look like a teen-age girl before conducting interviews. The mask was a replica of the one featured in the movie "Sugar & Spice," a comedy about high school cheerleaders who don those disguises to commit crimes. Jagr also draped a white towel over his head to simulate girlishly long hair.

When someone asked Jagr if he would wear special equipment to protect himself in the game, Jagr, still masked, replied, "Guys should do that. That's not a girl's job, is it?"

Jagr took off the mask and became serious when the subject turned to mending fences with his teammates. Accusations had been flying for much of the past week that Jagr was unwilling to play with pain, and he seemed unsure how much of that had an impact on his teammates.

"I don't think there's any change, but I could be wrong," he said. "I don't know. I can't really tell."

Jagr said he has yet to speak with Mario Lemieux regarding the critical comments Lemieux made about his play in the first round last week. But he insisted their relationship is not strained.

"We're OK. We've got no problems," Jagr said. "There was only one little thing he said, and I think the media made a big deal about it. Nobody knows what he really meant. I don't know, and you guys don't know. And it doesn't matter right now. We should concentrate on the games."

Jagr gets congratulations from Mario Lemieux after Jagr assisted on Janne Laukkanen's second period goal last night. (Matt Freed, Post-Gazette)

Why, Jagr was asked, don't he and Lemieux simply talk it out?

"I don't think this is a good time for it," Jagr said. "Maybe a little later. Maybe if we win the series, we're going to have the time to talk about it."

Jagr had predicted he might get booed by the fans last night, which would have been a first in his 11 years in Pittsburgh. But it didn't happen. He was cheered loudly when taking the ice for his first shift and again later when his image was flashed on the video scoreboard.

He maintained he wouldn't have been troubled by jeers.

"No matter what happens this summer, there's a big possibility I'm going to leave, and I'm not going to change that right now," Jagr said. "If people are going to cheer for me or boo me, it doesn't matter to me right now. I've got one month to go to do something special with this team. I will try to do my best."

He has two free days before the next game, but he doesn't expect that will allow him much healing time.

"Obviously, it won't be 100 percent," Jagr said. "To get to 100 percent, you need rest and to give it time. But I can't do that. I'm not saying I'm going to make it worse by playing, but I'm not going to make it any better. Hopefully, I'll feel better in the next game. Hopefully, the game will be different, too."

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