By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues (15-6-3) take the ice today against the Florida Panthers (10-9-4) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW and KMOX 1120-AM), six players on their roster were not even born when future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr made his NHL debut Oct. 5, 1990.
It's quite a remarkable feat that Jagr, in his 22nd season, is still not only playing at the age of 43 but playing at a high level.
Jagr leads the Panthers in goals (eight) and points (18) in 21 games this season and has 730 goals and 1,090 assists (1,820 points) in 1,571 regular season games.
"At least from our standpoint and in hearing stories about him, how much pride he takes in preparing himself, that's what it takes to play this late in your career and your life," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of Jagr. "He's a hard worker and I think that's the most admirable thing about him. He really does still have that passion for the game. He wants to get better, even at his age and that's seemingly hard to do, but I think that's a great example for guys like me and a lot of young guys around the league to follow.
"He's so big. I think there's really not a guy in the league who uses their size better. He has obviously the skills to go along with that and to hurt you and to be able to score goals. But when you go into a corner with him, it's next to impossible to get a puck off his stick. That's just something that he's been doing for years. I got my first taste of it at World Championships a few years back. It's fun to watch."
When Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson and Magnus Paajarvi take the ice tonight, they'll be facing a player that debuted before they were born. Jaden Schwartz, on injured reserve, is on that list, too.
"When we had (Dainius) Zubrus in here, he first came into the league when I was born," said Fabbri, born in 1996. "There's a lot of guys here that I'm closer to their kids' age than to their actual age.
"That mullet he used to have, that's something that everyone knew. It's amazing he's still doing this still at 43."
"He's a hockey legend," said Edmundson, born in 1993. "I can't wait to step on the ice with him. He's been a big deal his whole career. I want to see what he's got tonight. Everyone followed him growing up. It's hard not to. He's in every headline."
Added Parayko, also born in 1993: "Wow, that is incredible. Just goes to show if you take care of your body, you can have a long career and be very successful and he's done that. It's almost like an image for players who want to play for a long time. It's pretty cool to see something like that actually pan out. When I was watching him, he was in his prime ... well he still is. It's unreal."
There are teammates Jagr plays with that weren't born when he debuted in the NHL, but that's what brings out the best in those younger players.
One who should know is former Panther Scottie Upshall, who played with Jagr last season.
"Jeez, he's an unbelievable NHL player and has been his whole career," Upshall said. "Still brings it, makes people around him. He's made (Aleksander) Barkov and (Jonathan) Huberdeau, (Nick) Bjugstad ... he's made those three players evolve in the last five, six months. It says a lot for who he is, how he takes care of his body and how physically demanding our sport is day in and day out. He still plays in the corners. He doesn't just sit around the perimeters, he goes to the net, he's been a true NHL Hall of Fame player."
Upshall was asked if he can play at 43.
"Jeez, I'm trying to play at 33 here," he joked. "I've got a year to go. We'll worry about that then."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock knows a thing or two about Jagr having coached against him for many years, not only in the NHL but at the international level.
"I don't know if he's a freak of nature physically or he's just so dedicated," Hitchcock said. "I've seen Jaromir in World Championships, in the Olympics and you're going to a practice early and here's this guy running down the road in the middle of a driving rainstorm like he was in Sochi or whatever. Like, it's just amazing his dedication to the sport. It's never waned. As a matter of fact, I think it's gotten stronger. You have to admire a guy like that because he's not playing like he's hanging on, he's playing like a good player. And he's adjusted from 10 years ago when it was a stop-and-start sport. He now knows how to play on the move to maintain positive speed all the time, but he's adjusted and he's learned how to do that stuff. I just think when you're as dedicated as him, you're able to play for an extended period of time and he does things and keeps hours that no other athlete in our game keeps and that's what allows him to be a good player. I remember older players telling me that they had to work three times harder during the off-season and during the season to keep up. He works five times harder. I guarantee if you look at the hours and the time he spends at the rink and the extra work he does and the quickness drills that he puts in with all the weights that he does, that's just so he can maintain a high level of play because his expectations of himself are so high. It's hard mentally and physically to do that, but he's able to do it. It's pretty impressive."
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Upshall, who spend the past four seasons with the Panthers, will face his former team for the first time tonight.
He had 29 goals and 33 assists in 192 regular season games with the Panthers.
"It's always fun playing against your old team," Upshall said. "Doesn't seem like it was all but a couple days ago that I was over there with those guys. A good bunch of young kids who I helped kind of mentor and watch grow up into really good NHL players and a bunch of veteran guys who have been there and done good things in their careers. A great coaching staff over there as well. It was a fun time in my life."
Upshall, who signed with the Blues after being invited on a professional tryout, was pushed out of Florida due to a numbers game and a youth infusion.
"We had a lot of fun together," Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "He comes to the rink every day and works hard. He's a prototypical third liner that's going to get excitement in the building throwing the big hits and score a big goal at the right time and playing a hard-nosed game. It's really good to see him playing well."
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It flew under the radar here in St. Louis with Parayko being in Alaska, but he was part of a fun-raising effort for a teammate in college at Alaska-Fairbanks that began to go viral on Monday.
In light of Parayko's teammate John Keeney, whose father Mike passed away due to a heart attack in June of 2013, the Nanook players created a video using the Bee Gees song 'Stayin Alive,' which was inspired by the a foundation called 'With All Your Heart.'
It was done with good intentions in mind with a flare of fun added to it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np23ntFH558&app=desktop).
"Fortunately, I was front and center," Parayko joked. "It made my life easier because I could have a little fun with it, too. It was good.
"I have no dance moves. That's why I just tried to make the most fun of it. It was a fun little video. That's all you can do with it."
The website at www.fairbankshospitalfoundation.com or by calling 907-458-5550 to raise donations for heart awareness, and Parayko and his teammates, who created the video in April of 2014, were glad that it took off and helped contribute in such a manner.
"They just kind of raised awareness and raised money for people that have heart issues," Parayko said. "It was kind of done to get it out there and show more the fun side of things and you're trying to get a point across at the same time. It was a great opportunity to do something like that. At the same time, we had a lot of fun with it."
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The Blues won 69.8 percent of their faceoffs with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 3-1 victory, on Saturday, and the numbers were as staggering as they seemed.
But there was a reason for it.
When the Blues played in Columbus on Nov. 17, they won 55 percent, which is a good number. But why the big spike in 11 days?
"The other team was cheating and we got the linesman to square them up and they didn't win any draws because of it," Hitchcock said. "They were turning and cheating and we dinged them on it; they had to square up and they couldn't win. That's why our percentage was so high because they had a couple guys who got us in Columbus and we asked for help on it; we didn't get it and we got it the last game. Then they had to go about it in fair play and they couldn't beat us."
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The NHL announced Tuesday that Blues forwards David Backes, Alexander Steen and Tarasenko, and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk have been named to the ballot for the 2016 NHL All-Star fan vote. The fan vote opened worldwide at 11 a.m. and will conclude on Jan. 1.
The 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, Jan. 31 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
In this season’s All-Star Game format, players will participate in a three-game, three-on-three tournament, featuring a team from each NHL division. The fan vote will determine the captain for each division’s team. Fans can cast their votes at NHL.com/vote or via the official NHL app for their mobile device. The top vote-getters by division will be named All-Stars and captains, while the remaining 40 NHL All-Stars will be named by the NHL Hockey Operations Department.
Backes, currently in his 10th season with the Blues, has posted 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 24 games this season. On Saturday, Backes collected his 427th career point, tying Keith Tkachuk for seventh on the all-time franchise list.
Steen has 21 points, including a team-leading 12 assists, in 24 games this season and has eight multi-point games on the season and ranks third among all forwards in time on ice per game (20:55).
Tarasenko leads the Blues with 24 points; his 14 goals share second overall this season with Chicago's Patrick Kane heading into Tuesday's games. Taraseko made his first NHL All-Star game appearance in 2015.
Pietrangelo has appeared in 24 games this season and ranks third overall in ice time per game (27:04); he has 11 points, including nine assists.
Shattenkirk has registered 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 14 games this season and currently has an eight-game point streak (two goals, eight assists), which is one shy of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson for the longest streak by a defenseman overall this season. Shattenkirk made his first career NHL All-Star appearance in 2015.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-David Backes-Scottie Upshall
Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Troy Brouwer
Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Scott Gomez, Dmitrij Jaskin and Robert Bortuzzo. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are on injured reserve.
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The Panthers' probable lineup:
Brandon Pirri-Aleksander Barkov-Jaromir Jagr
Jonathan Huberdeau-Nick Bjugstad-Reilly Smith
Jussi Jokinen-Vincent Trochek-Dave Bolland
Shawn Thornton-Derek MacKenzie-Quinton Howden
Brian Campbell-Aaron Ekblad
Willie Mitchell-Erik Gudbranson
Steven Kampfer-Dylan Olsen
Roberto Luongo will start in goal. Al Montoya will be the backup.
Connor Brickley and Logan Shaw are expected to be the healthy sceatches. Dmitry Kulikov (lower body) and Alex Petrovic (foot) are out with injuries.