Jagr says it was ‘important’ to play for Devils after Kovalchuk retirement

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At 41, Jaromir Jagr wasn’t surprised to find just a handful of suitors for the upcoming campaign.

But that’s not to say one didn’t stand out above the rest.

On Tuesday, Jagr officially signed with New Jersey — a one-year deal with $2 million in base salary that could hit $4 million with bonuses — and said it was “important” to play for the Devils.

“Not many teams are looking for a forward my age, especially with the salary cap going down,” Jagr said, as per NHL.com. “My agent [Petr Svoboda] asked if I would be willing to play for New Jersey and I was. I talked to Lou [Lamoriello] even before [Ilya] Kovalchuk retired and after he retired.

“I felt it was even more important for me to play on the Devils roster [after Kovalchuk’s NHL retirement].”

Kovalchuk, who stunningly retired from the NHL with 14 years and $77 million remaining on his contract, will be tough to replace. He led the team in goals in his first two seasons and, during the 2011-12 campaign, scored 83 points in 77 games and 19 in 23 playoff games as New Jersey made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals.

That said, Jagr might be better equipped to replace Kovalcuk than most figure.

For one, No. 68 actually had the superior 2013 campaign, scoring 35 points to Kovalchuk’s 31 (granted, Kovalchuk played in eight fewer games).

There’s also the not-so-small fact that Jagr played a marathon season altogether, and showed great resilience despite turning 41 in February.

“I know people will say we had a shortened season last year, but it was the longest season for me,” Jagr said. “Counting my time in Europe and the NHL regular season and playoffs, I played in the most games ever in one season.”

Jagr played 34 games with Kladno in the Czech league and another 34 with Dallas before getting dealt to Boston. From there, he appeared in 11 regular season contests with the Bruins, then 22 playoff games.

So, 101 games all told.

As such, the sure-fire Hall of Famer figures he’s in better shape heading into 2013-14, which should be a breeze compared to last year.

“That’s the most games I’ve ever played,” he explained. “(This) is going to be a short season.”

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.