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Jokinen a Flame, Leopold returns

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

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  Jokinen Meets the Media
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Jordan Leopold
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The Calgary Flames are bringing back a familiar face and adding a new face.

The Flames made a deal with the Colorado Avalanche to acquire Jordan Leopold on trade deadline day and then pulled off a blockbuster by acquiring Olli Jokinen, a No. 1 centre and perennial 30-40 goal scorer, from the Phoenix Coyotes.

Both players could be in the Flames line-up as early as Thursday when the Flames play in Philadelphia.

The Flames sent defensemen Lawrence Nycholat, acquired just a day earlier on waivers from Vancouver, and Ryan Wilson, along with a second-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (originally Montreal’s choice) to the Avs.

The Flames received Jokinen and a third round draft pick in 2009 in exchange for forwards Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust and a conditional first round draft pick in either 2009 or 2010.
Jokinen, a 6’3, 215lb center has appeared in 57 games this season with the Coyotes recording 42 points.

The Finnish native has played 780 games with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes scoring 229 goals and 274 assists for 503 points.

"He's big. He is a first line center. He scores. He plays tough. He can play against the other big players in the league," said general manager Darryl Sutter.

"It's the first time we have been in a position to trade draft picks for players," added Sutter. "The last couple of weeks I had been traveling. I had to be comfortable that we had good young players."

Sutter said there are nine or 10 players in the Flames system ranked ahead of any player they might have drafted with the conditional first round pick he sent to the Coyotes and that he was able to get what he felt the Flames needed -- a top center and a defenceman.

"We knew we were going to have to pay a price. We are comfortable with the players we have brought up (this season). To accomplish this today is important."

Jokinen was the subject of trade talk wth the Flames last year at this time but he was shipped from Florida to Phoenix at the deadline. Jokinen has credited Flames head coach Mike Keenan with getting his career on track while the pair were in Florida.

"It's a fresh start. The season is going to start again. It's a good feeling right now," said Jokinen, who is looking forward to playing in a hockey market. "Going to a place where there are high expectations and the people expect a 'W' every night, that's what you want. It's very exciting. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. When you get a chance to play for a team like Calgary in a hockey market, it is a dream come true."

This season with the Coyotes, Jokinen has 21 goals and 21 assists in 57 games. He is expected to step in and centre the top line, playing with Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri.

"I don't think I have been playing at the level I can play," said Jokinen. "It's going to be challenging. There are high expectatons. As an athlete you want to be pushed."

Jokinen, who will be able to speak in his native Finnish language with Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, was a first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, third overall, in 1997. He has also played for the New York Islanders

Leopold has played in all 64 games for the Avalanche this season, tallying 20 points (6g/14a). He was traded to the Avs, with two second round draft choices, for Alex Tanguay in June, 2006.

Prior to that he had played the better part of three season with the Flames. Leopold collected 38 points (13g/25a) in 122 games with the Avalanche.. In 214 regular season games with Calgary he has 15 goals and and 52 assists.

He was also part of the Flames 2004 run to the Stanley Cup. In 26 playoff games that year he had 10 assists. During that time he played plenty with Flames rugged d-man Robyn Regehr.

"I spoke with Robyn after I found out. He's excited that I am coming back and I am exc ited to be back," said Leopold. "When I got traded from Calgary I was pretty banged up. I've had a lot of injuries over the last couple of seasons. It's been frustrating not being able to play, and the mential side of it, too. I found a way to get healthy over the summer and I think emerged as my old self this season."

Leopold, who was inches away from scoring and forcing Game 7 against Tampa Bay in 2004 to overtime, would rather be with the Flames than against them.

"I never liked playing against the Flames," he conceded. "They were my former team and they play with a lot of heart and a lot of grit. That's what Darryl demands."

Nycholat, 29, was claimed off waivers by Calgary from Vancouver Wednesday. 

Wilson, 22, has spent this season with Calgary’s AHL affiliate, the Quad City Flames, where he has appeared in all 60 games.  Wilson (6-1, 207 lbs) ranks second among Quad City defensemen in scoring with 20 points (4g/16a).  The Windsor, Ontario native signed with Calgary as an undrafted free agent on July 1, 2008. 

The Flames also acquired  the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 4th round draft choice in 2009 in exchange for goaltender Kevin Lalande.

The 6’0, 175lb netminder has appeared in six games this season with the Quad City Flames (AHL) going 4-1-1. Lalande was originally drafted by the Flames in the 5th round (128 overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

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