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Rangers vs. Devils preview: Another chance to watch and appreciate Jaromir Jagr, before he's gone

A player who was so immense to the 21st century Rangers, fans will have another and perhaps one of their final chances to appreciate Jaromir Jagr Tuesday night.

Bruce Bennett

Throughout the 24 years Jaromir Jagr has spent in the NHL, there's been a few a rink he's met that he didn't enjoy. Likewise, wherever Jagr has traveled, whatever sweater he has donned, and whatever team he was a part of, nary a fan base has really been an enemy to Jagr.

When Jagr chooses to walk away from hockey, whenever that occurs, he'll leave the game and go down as one of the greatest to have ever played it. Yet equally paramount in telling Jagr's story is acknowledging Jaromir Jagr the person. The lighthearted, 6-foot-3 behemoth who so enjoyed the game, he proclaimed during the 2013 playoffs he wished the league would add double-headers.

Jagr was only a modest 41 years old when he made that statement playing for the Bruins.

Which is also why we'll never quite know for sure or be able to predict when Jagr will choose to hang up the skates. He'll turn 43 this February, yet his pure enjoyment of the game continues to fuel him well into his third decade of puck. Jagr will decide when Jagr's career is over, at which point we'll all be in for a loss.

The Rangers will have three more games this season against the Devils after Tuesday night's matchup, barring a meeting in this year's playoffs, yet Jagr has already forged plenty of memories within the confines of Madison Square Garden. Jagr's tenure on Broadway from 2003 through 2008, a 277 game stretch in which he posted 319 points, was monumental in helping to restore order to the franchise.

Jagr helped lead the Rangers back into the postseason coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, the franchise's first playoff appearance after a seven season drought. That same year, Jagr recorded a Rangers single-season record in goals (54), points (123), and finished second in the MVP race, robbed of the trophy by Joe Thornton.

After an era and a core that brought the Stanley Cup back to New York following 50 years of waiting, the Rangers fizzled into hockey obscurity. Jagr then shepherded winning back to the Blueshirts. He helped make the team relevant again, carrying an offense absent of any weapons besides No. 68.

It's no surprise that Jagr is still cheered when he returns to MSG, but what's more is, Jagr isn't booed, anywhere. Had he not fallen victim to three lockouts, and abdicated to the KHL, the Czech-native (well, let's be clear here: Jagr is so old that he was born in former Czechoslovakia), he'd only be finishing on the all-time lists behind a guy named Gretzky.

Jagr's approach to the game hasn't changed much, if at all, since he debuted as an 18-year-old rookie in 1990. Sans the mullet, Jagr is still focused on winning, and is still having just as much fun as ever. On some nights he dyes his beard. On other occasions, he's found alternative creative ways to dress up his face. Selfies won't be safe so long as Jagr is still there to ruin make them 100 times better.

"I play hockey because it makes me very happy," Jagr told The Daily News last season. "People retire and it's great and then five months later they don't know what to do.

"What are the chances I will find something else that will make me that happy?"

So during Tuesday night's game, just take a second to watch Jagr. Marvel in his old man strength and ample rump as he walls off defensemen trying to win the puck. Take note of his creativity down low, and the chances he generates around the goal. Remember what he meant to the Rangers franchise in the larger scheme, and what the New York Rangers' identity was before the team actually found that post-lockout success.

Because that happiness Jagr spoke of? It's been reciprocated by millions in all seven NHL stops he's made, and the countless cities he's been a visitor to along the way. When Jagr joined the Devils before last season, he proclaimed, "I want to play until 50, maybe more." Yet if this is possibly Jagr's last season of hockey, and one of the final times he'll play against the Rangers, now is as good a time as any to behold the ageless wonder.