NEWARK — Jaromir Jagr, his graying hair now virtually shoulder length, has been around the N.H.L. long enough — 1,671 games over 23 seasons — that he has learned it is often better to just go with the flow.
Last season, during which he turned 44, Jagr was an offensive phenomenon, scoring 27 goals in 79 games to lift the Florida Panthers into the playoffs. They lost in the first round to the Islanders, whom they play Wednesday night in Brooklyn.
Jagr, now a month from his 45th birthday, has only seven goals in 42 games this season for the Panthers. Still, he has helped keep them in the postseason race by adding ice time and bearing down on defense. Despite the Panthers’ slow start, a November coaching change and a devastating number of injuries, Florida was only 4 points from a wild-card spot entering Tuesday’s games.
“We’ve had tough luck with injuries, so we just have to battle through until the guys come back,” Jagr said after the Panthers shut out the Devils, 3-0, on Monday at Prudential Center.
The Panthers (18-16-8) were 26th among the 30 N.H.L. teams with an average of 2.26 goals per game heading into Tuesday. Their power play, although aided by a goal from Reilly Smith on Monday just 22 seconds from the end of a five-minute boarding major on the Devils, was ranked 23rd.
Jagr has one goal in his last 14 games, but he has been healthy, which has kept him, usually with a smile on his face, around his teammates in the locker room.
“He’s done everything we’ve expected,” said Tom Rowe, the Panthers’ general manager, who became the interim head coach when he fired Gerard Gallant on Nov. 27. “He’s going to get his points — he’s going to end up with 40, 45, maybe 50 points this year. And the fact that he’s in the locker room every day and our young guys have a chance to watch him not just for games but practices as well is a great addition for our roster and a great addition for our young kids.”
Jagr is helping the Panthers bide time until two injured forwards, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, and an injured defenseman, Alex Petrovic, are able to return, which could be soon. Another forward, Denis Malgin, left Monday’s game after he was driven into the boards.
“It’s the way it’s going right now,” Rowe said. “Maybe we can get all the injuries out of the way.”
On Monday, Jagr played nearly 19 minutes — two more than his season average — blocking lanes and turning aside attackers. After the Devils’ Taylor Hall found P. A. Parenteau in the slot, Jagr got his stick on the puck to thwart a good scoring chance.
Jagr has never been a defensive stalwart. Last month, he passed Mark Messier for second place on the career points list with his 1,888th. (Wayne Gretzky, the record holder, remains in another stratosphere, 964 points away.)
“It’s amazing what he does at this age,” said defenseman Keith Yandle, who played in his 593rd consecutive game Monday. “A lot of guys on our team, he could be their father. The way he carries himself and keeps himself young and stays young at heart, it’s a good thing to see.
“You don’t play until you’re 45 strictly by being good on offense. He’s a guy who plays in all three zones. When he gets into the defensive zone, he always seems to be in the right lane with a good stick. He’s never hurting us in the defensive zone.”
On Monday, the Panthers also got a brilliant 28-save shutout from their 37-year-old goaltender, Roberto Luongo, who recorded his 448th career victory to pass Terry Sawchuk for fifth place among N.H.L. goaltenders.
Yandle said the Panthers would just have to win tight, tough games until they got their scorers back.
This is Jagr’s second full season in Florida. He will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he has not indicated what he plans to do next season.
But he clearly still loves the grind. He retreated to the Panthers’ training room late Monday after a tough game to share a few laughs with his teammates. He has hinted that he might refashion his hair into a mullet, a familiar look from his younger years, but at least for now, he has work to do.
“He’s always done a lot for us,” Luongo said. “First line, first power-play unit. The only thing he doesn’t do is kill penalties. Other than that, he’s always been a big part of our team offensively. He’s been a pillar since he’s gotten here. It’s amazing to see the things that he’s done at his age.”