PITTSBURGH, Pa. - When Jaromir Jagr chose to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers over the summer after a three-year sabbatical, the 39-year-old Czech Republic native knew it wouldn't go over well in Pittsburgh.
And to be honest, he doesn't care.
Jagr will make his first appearance in Pittsburgh since his return to the league following a three-year absence on Thursday when the Penguins host the Flyers. He understands there will be some animosity. He also doesn't care.
"To me, it doesn't matter," Jagr said. "I just play every game the same—Pittsburgh, Rangers, Tampa Bay. It doesn't matter."
Yet he knows he'll hear it from the Consol Energy Center crowd. It's to be expected considering the way he toyed with the Penguins in the off-season. Jagr hinted over the summer that he'd be interested in returning to the city where he won a pair of Stanley Cups alongside Mario Lemieux two decades ago. Yet he joined the hated Flyers instead, in part because the Flyers offered more money.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was intrigued about the possibility of pairing Jagr and star Sidney Crosby. Instead Crosby remains sidelined with concussion-like symptoms while Jagr is playing as if he never left the NHL. Jagr enters the game with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 31 games for Philadelphia.
Bylsma is curious to see how Jagr is received, but isn't exactly expecting Jagr to be rattled.
"It's not the first time that Jaromir Jagr has come into a building and not been liked," Bylsma said. "I'm sure he's going to expect it and hear it. You hear players who hear the crowd and feed off it as well."
Jagr isn't the only former Penguin to trade black-and-yellow for the Flyers' orange-and-white. Winger Max Talbot, a popular figure who helped the Penguins win the 2009 Stanley Cup, left as a free agent over the summer to join Philadelphia.
The venom for Talbot, however, will likely be muted compared to the welcome awaiting Jagr.
Don't expect Jagr to try do something extra to quiet things down.
"That would be the worst thing ... to show somebody you still have it," Jagr said. "I don't (need) to prove anything to anybody. I don't think I'd be playing my game if I wanted to show somebody."
The Penguins have certainly seen enough.
"We see a lot of highlights," Bylsma said. "You what he's been able to do for their (power play). What he's been able to do for (Claude) Giroux has been very good. Those are a lot of things they've saw him doing with our team with a (Evgeni) Malkin and a Crosby."