When the starters for the NHL All-Star Game are announced Saturday afternoon, winger Jaromir Jagr is the only Washington Capital expected to be on the list. Jagr was the highest vote-getting winger in the Eastern Conference the last time the fan balloting totals were released and he has been voted a starter every year he has been in the league save for 1990-91, his rookie season.
This season has been different than most for the former league most valuable player, however. He did not lead the Capitals in scoring through the first half of the season, with less than a point per game and has scored only three times in his last 14 games. Jagr, a five-time scoring champion, has also been the subject of trade speculation and been booed on occasion at MCI Center.
"I was voted in the starting lineup every year but my first year," Jagr said. "I didn't have a chance to go some years because I was injured, but if the fans wouldn't vote for me I wouldn't be there this year. I don't deserve to be there, but what can I say? The fans voted me and I have to go. I'm going to feel a little bit silly there around those guys, but that's okay."
Jagr, who missed the 1994, '97 and '01 all-star games because of injury (there was no game in the lockout-shortened 1995 season), was about 26,000 votes ahead of former teammate Alexei Kovalev on Dec. 27, four days before the voting concluded. With two wingers in the starting lineup, Jagr was virtually ensured a spot. The NHL has switched back to an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format for the game, which takes place Feb. 2, after playing a World vs. North American format the last four years.
The Capitals scratched forwards Alex Henry and Glen Metropolit and defenseman Jean-Francois Fortin. Fortin has been scratched from four straight games and Metropolit has played just two of the last 14 games. . . . Tonight's game was the second for the Capitals in a stretch of 21 of 22 games against Eastern Conference teams -- including 11 straight -- which continues until Feb. 22. "We know we've got a big stretch here for six weeks culminating in our trip to Carolina Florida, and Tampa, where we can separate ourselves," Coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We know that we've got some home cooking here and we've played through the tough parts of our schedule, not that any part is easy." Tonight's victory improved Washington's record to 15-9-2 in conference play.