On Jagr’s 45th birthday, Panthers begin crucial California swing

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The Florida Panthers are rested and healthy and ready to make a run.

But a three-game journey through California¬†could just as soon doom their playoff hopes. They’re in San Jose tonight (on NBCSN), Anaheim Friday, and Los Angeles Saturday. Then, on their way back to Florida, they have to make a stop in St. Louis to take on the revitalized Blues.

“We know these games are very important to us to start climbing the standings and get ourselves into a playoff spot,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said, per the Miami Herald.

wild-cardThe Panthers are coming off a 7-4 victory in Nashville on Saturday, an encouraging bounce-back after that bye-week “hangover” loss to the Kings.

But in order to make the playoffs, it’s estimated the Panthers (24-20-10) will have to go around 16-9-3 in their remaining 28 games. With a full lineup, including Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, that’s doable. Any extended losing streaks, however, and it will be tough to recover.

Of note, today is Jaromir Jagr‘s 45th birthday. The ageless wonder is by far the oldest player in the NHL. The next oldest is Shane Doan, who’s 40.

The fifth overall draft pick in 1990, Jagr played for the Pittsburgh Penguins as an 18-year-old rookie. At the time, the oldest player on the Pens was Bryan Trottier, who is now 60.

What’s been the key to his longevity?

“When they’re talented and skilled, if players in any sport decide that they can work as hard as anybody else, then they can play forever,” Jagr said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “They’ll always have the edge. … You can’t take a day off. Once you do you lose it very quickly.”