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Leopold's Early Play Promising

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The 2008-09 season may only be 11 games old for Colorado, but the play of defenseman Jordan Leopold has been extremely encouraging.

Leopold notched his third goal of the season Sunday evening in the Avalanche’s 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center, and now has six points (3g/3a) on the season. His goal and point totals are tops among Colorado defensemen.

There’s never been a question about Leopold’s abilities on the ice. The only thing that’s held the talented skater back is a stretch of bad luck with injuries. In 2003-04, the former Hobey Baker winner gave a glimpse of his potential when he notched 33 points (9g/24a) while playing in all 82 games for the Calgary Flames. Following the lockout, he played in 74 games and totaled 20 points (2g/18a).

After being acquired from the Flames in June of 2006, the defenseman was limited to only 15 games during his first season in Denver due to various ailments. He then showed signs of both his offensive and defensive prowess a season ago, but was struck by the injury bug again and ended up totaling 13 points (5g/8a) in 43 contests.

Now healthy and playing with confidence, Leopold has made a big difference for Colorado’s defensive corps. He recently compiled a three-game point streak from Oct. 20-25 – his longest since joining the Avalanche – during which he notched the game-tying goal in the Avs’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the club still found itself down by a 2-1 count after the first period Sunday night despite a tally from Leopold.

Milan Michalek opened the scoring at 7:02 after taking a cross-ice pass from Joe Pavelski and blasting a shot from the left wing that beat Avs netminder Peter Budaj. Devon Setoguchi made it a 2-0 game two minutes later when he tapped home a goal from just outside the crease.

Leopold cut the Sharks’ lead in half before the end of the first period, rifling a point shot past Evgeni Nabokov at 14:24 directly following a faceoff win by Paul Stastny.

Setoguchi gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead with the only goal of the middle frame when he knocked home a Joe Thornton feed for his second tally of the contest at 12:43.

Milan Hejduk brought the Avalanche within a goal in the third period after beating Nabokov with a backhand just 1:30 into the frame, but Michalek scored his second of the game on a rebound of a Jonathan Cheechoo attempt at 5:44 to make it a 4-2 contest.

The Avalanche wasn’t quite finished, as John-Michael Liles netted his second goal of the season on a well-placed shot at 13:41. Liles’ attempt from the left faceoff dot beat a screened Nabokov to the short side to again bring Colorado within a goal.

However, Ryane Clowe effectively ended any hopes of a comeback attempt when he buried the rebound of a Mike Grier shot at 18:16.

Stastny Takes Bite Out of Sharks
Paul Stastny has been effective against just about every team during his two-plus NHL seasons, and San Jose is no exception. Stastny notched an assist in the second period after cleanly winning a draw back to Leopold, who buried it for the Avalanche’s first goal of the night.

A season ago, Stastny had seven points (1g/6a) in only three games against the Sharks. Included in that scoring spree was a one goal, four assist effort during a 6-2 Colorado triumph on Oct. 7, 2007.

In eight career games against San Jose, Stastny has totaled nine points (1g/8a).

Hejduk Still Hot
Veteran forward Milan Hejduk continued his early season success tonight by notching a third-period goal, his team-best seventh of the season. Hejduk, who led the Avalanche with 29 goals during the 2007-08 campaign, didn’t record his seventh tally last year until the Avalanche’s 18th contest.
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