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Jokinen welcoming a fresh start

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

While it’s not exactly clear how long the Olli Jokinen era in Toronto will last, it appears he will get something he wasn’t getting in Nashville. An opportunity to play centre.

“Everyone wants to show that they still can play and still produce and still be a part of it,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek. “He’s still wants to play and wants to show everybody he can still play for years to come.”

Jokinen, 36, signed with the Predators on a one-year deal this past summer. Having been a centre his entire his career, that changed quickly, as he was shuffled around.

“I don’t know what happened between July 2nd and training camp but I found myself as a wing. (I) Played right wing most of the year. It was very uncomfortable,” said Jokinen. “I’ve never played wing before in my life. I think I wasn’t used properly over there. Maybe there were a lot of centres and I ended up being a wing. But, at the same time as a player you try to do the job (as) best you can. I thought two weeks ago everything was good. After that I thought what I was doing wasn’t good enough anymore, now I’m here.”

Jokinen did not take part in Monday’s practice. His status for Tuesday is uncertain as he waits for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to get clearance in Nashville.

Jokinen doesn’t know what the future holds, but in Nashville he had been a healthy scratch for six of the past seven games. A change of scenery was definitely welcomed.

“As a player, you go to a new team and you try to fit in the room. You’ve got a job to do, you’ve got to respect the game. You got to respect the players you play with. You have to enjoy playing this game. That’s the bottom line.”

While Jokinen was meeting his new teammates, the rest of the Maple Leafs were getting used to what the vibe was like without Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli.

“I found out on TV,” said Nazem Kadri of how he learned of the trade. “I was a little surprised but a little not surprised I guess. It’s tough to see those guys go but I’m sure they’re going to be happy there.”

Richard Panik mas moved to the right wing spot alongside Daniel Winnik and Kadri at practice. It’s a further reward for a player whose season is trending in a positive direction.

“If you get more ice time you start feeling more comfortable on the ice and that’s how I feel now,” said Panik. “I just keep working hard during the practices both on and off the ice and it’s paying off.”

Panik’s 19:44 of ice-time was a regular season career high. Last season, Panik played 20:37 in game one of the Lightning/Canadiens first round playoff series. That was spread over nearly four periods of hockey.

While more moves can happen between now and March 2nd, expect other changes to happen. For the first time in his career, GM Dave Nonis is a seller at the deadline. The yields should be rather interesting.

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