- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

Four players have accounted for 36 of the Washington Capitals’ 54 goals this season, two-thirds of the team’s offense. The last thing coach Bruce Cassidy wanted to hear was that one of the four was out with a chronic groin problem.

Apparently, it’s something Cassidy won’t hear. Jaromir Jagr, who is on a nine-game point streak (with 14 points and a plus-6 defensive rating), told club officials he wants to play tonight against Montreal after missing most of Wednesday’s game against Buffalo when his groin acted up.

“He came to me after the game and said he wanted to come back in but he just didn’t think he could help us,” Cassidy said. “He said he was going in [yesterday] for treatment and wanted to play against the Canadiens.

“He felt bad, he legitimately felt bad. And he was flying, he was into it. He made a great play on [Robert Langs] goal and made some great plays before that.”

Jagr, the subject of trade rumors since last June, played five shifts in the first period before leaving 14 minutes into the game. He’s had groin problems in the past, forcing him to miss 31 games during his 14-year NHL career.

Jagr and Lang have been on fire for weeks. Lang is on a 13-game point streak (10-11-21), the longest of his career and longest in the league this season. Together they have 21 goals this season while Dainius Zubrus has eight and Peter Bondra seven. Nobody else on the team has more than two.

The turnaround for Jagr has been dramatic. He had two goals and four points in his first two games then went 11 games with just two goals and three points.

Earlier in the season none of this success seemed possible. Jagr was depressed and finally vented his feelings to a horde of reporters in Toronto in late October, complaining about his playing time, his role on the team, the way things were going generally. He was the lead story for two days.

“We talked after all that stuff came out in the papers up there and all I said to him was, ‘I really don’t think you should go through the newspapers. Come talk to me. We’ve been together a year now, that stuff just creates a lot of strife around here that we don’t need,’” Cassidy said. “He said his piece and I just said, ‘Listen, I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe you want out, maybe the team’s trying to trade you. But it doesn’t matter now because nobody’s going to look good if you’re not playing well. I’m not going to look good, you’re not going to look good, the team’s not going to look good, it’s not going to help anybody.’

“We talked about different things and he said get me back to where my minutes should be, up around 21, 22 minutes. I said fine, that means you’re going to have to be on the power play, work with the other guys and go where we tell you. He said fine, so we both bent.”

It took Jagr about a week to get his game back in stride and he has been playing well since.

“Did [our conversation] have something to do with it?” Cassidy asked. “Honestly, I don’t know. I’d like to think it had something to do with his revival.”

Notes — Olie Kolzig will be in goal tonight after sitting out two games, a long stretch for the goalie to be inactive when he’s not hurt. … Former Cap Joe Juneau missed the Canadiens’ practice yesterday to rest his chronically sore back. … The Caps will be collecting canned food and other non-perishable food items at arena entrances tonight to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. The food bank has more than 750 member feeding programs. … The Caps are in Columbus tomorrow night for their only meeting of the season with the Blue Jackets.

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