Jaromir Jagr has more than just a guaranteed place in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is already ranked among the upper echelon of stars who’ve played the game alongside names like Wayne Gretzky Gordie Howe Mario Lemieux Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

So why would Jagr 41 risk tarnishing his reputation at this late stage of his career by playing too long? And why would he do it on a Devils team few believe is capable of winning a Stanley Cup which would be his third?

"I don’t care about reputation. I play because I love the game" Jagr said Tuesday. "I know people say ‘Finish on top.’ I don’t agree with that. I’m different. I never played the game because I wanted to be one of the greats. I play because I love this game.

"Even though I’m not what I used to be I still love the game. I have the same love I had before. People get old. They still love their lives but they cannot do what they used to do. Are you going to kill yourself? That’s me. I’m going to fight to the end. There are probably a lot of people who don’t agree with me but I don’t really care.

"Why should I stop doing something that I love? Because I’m going to hurt my name? So what? Are they going to criticize me that I can’t play anymore that I’m awful? Who cares? As long as I’m giving my best and somebody appreciates my work I’m happy with that. I’m kind of different that way. You learn to put your ego aside."

Jagr plans to begin his 20th NHL season when the Devils face the Penguins Thursday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Bothered by a groin/hip injury for most of the preseason he did not play in any exhibition games. But he has recovered and Devils coach Pete DeBoer has used him on the first power play unit and at right wing on a line with Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique.

"I’m pain-free so that’s a good sign. It’s going to be my first game if I play" Jagr said.

He ranks eighth on the all-time NHL scoring list with 1688 points. Lemieux is just ahead with 1723.

Jagr is 10th all-time in goals (681) behind Lemieux (690) and 12th in assists (1007) behind Joe Sakic (1016).

But what can the Devils really expect from him at this stage?

"Obviously you can see just watching him the world-class skill and the plays he’s able to make" DeBoer said. "For me it’s just finding that balance where we allow him and afford him the opportunity to be creative at the right times and at the same time he gets a good handle on our expectations system-wise and fitting in that way."