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Upbeat Jagr quiets critics

By TOM JONES
Published October 30, 2005


He has been accused of being lazy at times. Selfish, too. And moody.

Many thought his best days were well behind him and that he no longer was an impact player.

But look who is near the top of the leaderboard in scoring and playing, perhaps, better than anyone in the NHL.

Jaromir Jagr, who entered the weekend with 10 goals in 10 games.

Last week, he passed the great Rocket Richard on the all-time goal-scoring list. By season's end, he likely will be 15th and by the time he is done playing, he should crack the top 10.

Most of all, he has led the Rangers, a team thought to be a major rebuilding project, to a surprisingly solid start.

"I think we've got a pretty exciting team," Jagr said. "We have a lot of new guys and with the new coaches and everything so far it works together. I don't think it's only me, I think every player, even the whole organization is having a lot of fun."

No one more so than Jagr, who has enjoyed silencing his critics.

"I always believed in myself," Jagr, 33, said. "Everybody was saying I am not the same player. Maybe they are right, but I still feel like I can play good hockey.

"Everybody knows, any sport you play, you've got to believe in yourself and have confidence. When you have confidence, hockey is a lot better."

TODD, THE BIG-HEAD MONSTER: Shame on Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi. Okay, so he has served his punishment for his vicious hit on Colorado's Steve Moore March 8, 2004. And Bertuzzi could not have been surprised to be booed when he returned to play in Denver for the first time last week.

His thoughts?

"For us, it's just another game," Bertuzzi said.

About the negative reaction of fans, he said, "Read into it. You're pretty intelligent. It is what it is. What am I going to do about it?"

He didn't have to get on his hands and knees and beg for forgiveness, but a little contrition would've been nice.

MR. OCTOBER: This is hard to believe considering all the great teams and goalies there have been, but Detroit's Manny Legace became the first to win 10 games in a month. Obviously, he has replaced Chris Osgood as the Wings' No. 1 goalie.

"It's just a great honor," Legace said. "People have been talking about it (the record) the last couple of days. All it means right now is we're in first place. When my grandkids are around, I'll be able to tell them I wasn't just a slug in the rocking chair."

BEHIND THE STREAK: Nashville's eight-game winning streak to start the season finally ended two game shy of Toronto's record start in 1993-94.

But coach Barry Trotz is warning his team not get too excited. Three of the victories came in shootouts, which did not exist before this season. The Predators trailed in six of the eight games. Six of the victories were by one goal. And the combined record of their opponents was 23-37-6.

"It will probably be 20 or 30 games before we really know our team and the rest of the league," GM David Poile said.

AWKWARD MOMENTS: Nashville's Paul Kariya is now a teammate of Ryan Suter. Ryan's uncle, Gary, cross-checked Kariya in the face during the 1997-98 season and the resulting injury kept Kariya from playing in the Nagano Olympics.

"I had my mother and grandmother in Japan, so it was extra incentive to go," Kariya said. "But that's the way it went. As far as I'm concerned, it's done with."

LOOKING FOR HELP: Entering the weekend, the Flyers' Peter Forsberg had assisted on all nine of Simon Gagne's goals. That's why, Forsberg said, he missed the net completely on a recent penalty shot.

"I was looking for Simon," Forsberg said, "but then I realized he was on the bench."

BAD ICE: Complaining about bad ice is nothing new in the NHL, but this season, the complaints are more frequent.

"I think the ice collectively around the league is garbage," the Wild's Wes Walz said. "If you'll watch the puck for 30 seconds, with five or 10 minutes left in a period, you'll know what I'm talking about. The best ice I've skated on was in 150 degrees in Phoenix, for what it's worth."

The Wild's Marian Gaborik, who blames bad ice for his groin and hip injuries, added, "Sometimes you can't control where your legs are going."

ICE CHIPS: Toronto's Mats Sundin will not need retina surgery and has resumed skating. There is no date for his return. ... The Panthers are practicing this weekend in Kissimmee because Hurricane Wilma knocked out the power in the BankAtlantic Center and melted the ice.

Information from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Detroit News, Delaware County Daily Times and Tennessean was used in this report.