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Penguins Penguins Notebook: Jagr makes visit; Lemieux to get 'C'

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Jaromir Jagr visited the Penguins in their locker room at Southpointe yesterday morning, then watched their practice from the bleachers and finally had lunch with Coach Ivan Hlinka.

His objective?

"I'm here to buy the team."

Jagr's North American home and his employer have changed, but it was clear his sense of humor made it through the biggest move of his career unscathed. The Washington Capitals were given Sunday and yesterday off, and Jagr took the chance to collect some belongings from his South Hills house.

He was smiling and laughing with ease after seeing a few old friends.

"I just wanted to come up here and hang around," Jagr said. "I had a chance to talk to the guys. That was nice."

Might it have been a bit uncomfortable, given that three times last season he demanded a trade out of Pittsburgh?

"No, not at all," he said. "A trade was going to happen, anyway. I think maybe I just made it easier for them to do it. Look at how much money they had to pay to keep all their players here this summer. Maybe that wouldn't happen if I'm still here. Maybe this was for the best."

Jagr said he is happy in Washington. He bought another house last week near the Capitals' practice rink, he is skating on a solid line with skilled forwards Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus, and he expressed delight at the way he has been received by his new teammates.

"It's a great room, a great bunch of guys," Jagr said. "There are a lot of veterans there and a couple of young guys. It's going to be a good team."

Jagr's first game with the Capitals is Saturday at the MCI Center against the New Jersey Devils.

Lemieux to be captain

Upon emerging from retirement in December, Mario Lemieux spurned the notion of becoming the Penguins' captain. He insisted the job belonged to Jagr, and it remained that way for the rest of the season.

But with Jagr in Washington, Lemieux's reservations apparently are gone.

Asked yesterday if he would be named captain before the regular-season opener against the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow at Mellon Arena, Lemieux smiled and replied, "I think there's a good chance."

Lemieux previously served as captain in 1987-94 and 1995-97.

He wouldn't divulge the identities of the alternate captains, but left wingers Martin Straka and Kevin Stevens appear to be consensus choices.

Richer to talk deal

Right winger Stephane Richer, who has attended training camp on a tryout basis and is a virtual lock to make the team, still is without a regular contract. But he and General Manager Craig Patrick have a meeting scheduled this morning to attempt to work one out.

Richer does not have an agent, so he will negotiate his own deal.

"Even if they ask me to sign a contract an hour before the first game, that's fine with me," he said. "I just want to play here. I've worked very hard, and I'm very proud of what I've done here."

Richer is slated to start the season on the top line with Lemieux and left winger Kris Beech.

Icy chips

The Penguins continued to practice with 24 players, one more than the NHL's roster limit. Although it is possible Patrick could achieve the maximum by demoting or releasing a player, such a move wouldn't be necessary. Right winger Billy Tibbetts, slowed through much of camp by a sore neck, could be placed on injured reserve. Tibbetts and right winger Krzysztof Oliwa were the only forwards not assigned to regular lines yesterday. ... Center Toby Petersen worked between Stevens and right winger Dan LaCouture on the fourth line, all but assuring he will make the team. ... The top power-play unit in practice had Lemieux, Beech and Stevens up front, Straka and Alexei Kovalev on the points. Center Robert Lang also saw duty in Stevens' place in front of the net. ... Roughly 1,000 tickets remain for the opener, and 4,000 tickets remain for each of the next three home games: Saturday against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Oct. 10 against the New York Islanders and Oct. 16 against the Ottawa Senators. ... The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins made their final cuts yesterday, releasing forwards Alon Eizenman, Casey Harris and Arpad Mihaly, defenseman Eric Lind and goaltender Mark Scally. Scally is a Moon High School graduate who made a preseason appearance for the Penguins at Mellon Arena last season.

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