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Jokinen to make Maple Leafs debut vs. Panthers

by Mike Brophy

PANTHERS (24-19-12) at MAPLE LEAFS (23-29-5)


TORONTO -- Even if his stay in Toronto is not a long one, Olli Jokinen hopes it will be productive.

Jokinen, 36, will make his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Florida Panthers at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

Jokinen was acquired from the Nashville Predators on Sunday in a multi-player trade that sent defenseman Cody Franson and right wing Mike Santorelli the other way. The Maple Leafs indicated they will try to flip Jokinen to a Stanley Cup Playoff contender before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m.

Jokinen said he is motivated by the fact he may be traded again and that he plans to play in the NHL beyond this season.

"As a player you try to do your best every night," Jokinen said. "I'm in a position where I have to show everyone that I still have 'game' left. I am in good shape. I am in good shape and I believe I can still play at this level. I just have to get out there and prove that."

Jokinen had three goals and six points in 46 games with Nashville. In his career he has 320 goals and 746 points in 1,217 games. He signed with the Predators on July 2, 2014 with the understanding he would play center as he has through his 15-year career. However, when the season began he was at right wing and not pleased with the switch. He is looking forward to making his debut with the Maple Leafs.

"I'll get chance to play center for the first time this year," Jokinen said. "I'm kind of excited to be playing a position that I have played in the past."

The Maple Leafs (23-29-5) have lost three in a row and are 4-20-2 in their past 26 games. The Panthers (24-19-12) are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. Florida has lost four of its past five games, but remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers trail the Boston Bruins by four points and have one game in hand.

Veteran right wing Shawn Thornton believes the Panthers have a legitimate chance of making it.

"From the start of the year I thought we had a shot if we played consistently," Thornton said. "We have been up and down a little bit of late but we're still in the hunt. It's not easy to make up points this year, but we have a good team here. When we are playing the right way we are tough to play against."

Florida coach Gerard Gallant said the Panthers have saved some of their best efforts for the better teams in the League. Three of Florida's past four losses were by one goal and the other by two goals.

"I like the way our club plays," Gallant said. "We're in a lot of games. It's not like we're getting blown out. We just played six very good teams from the West and we were very good. If we show up and play hard we can beat anybody on any given night."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Dave Bolland - Scottie Upshall

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Shane O'Brien - Erik Gudbranson

Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Sean Bergenheim

Suspended: Dmitry Kulikov

Injured: Willie Mitchell (upper body), Brandon Pirri (upper body)


James van RiemsdykTyler BozakPhil Kessel

Daniel WinnikNazem KadriRichard Panik

Leo KomarovOlli JokinenDavid Clarkson

David BoothSam CarrickBrandon Kozun

Morgan RiellyRoman Polak

Jake GardinerKorbinian Holzer

Petter GranbergStephane Robidas

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Peter Holland

Injured: Trevor Smith (upper body), Joffrey Lupul (upper body)

Status report: Mitchell will miss his seventh straight game; Gallant said he is day-to-day and close to returning … Bergenheim, a healthy scratch the past two games, will be a game-time decision … Maple Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek said Brandon Kozun will dress … The Maple Leafs called up center Sam Carrick from Toronto of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Bjugstad has three goals in his past four games … Rielly has three goals in his past four games for the Maple Leafs.

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