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Lehtera eager for fresh start with Flyers this season

Forward confident move from Blues will be positive for him

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Jori Lehtera has one specific goal knowing he has a fresh start playing in a new city and for a new team. 

"I just need to prove to myself that I can be a better player," Lehtera said Friday after an informal practice with former St. Louis Blues teammates and other NHL players at the Blues practice facility. "That's the most important. Show yourself that you can be much better. When you don't play as good as you want or you play even worse than you think, it's always nice to get steps forward."

Lehtera, 29, was acquired by the Flyers in a trade from the Blues for center Brayden Schenn, a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on June 23.

The past two seasons were frustrating for Lehtera, the Blues' third-round pick (No. 65) in the 2008 NHL Draft. After he had 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 75 games during his rookie season in 2014-15, playing primarily on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. But his production dipped to 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 79 games 2015-16 and then 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 64 games last season, when he missed 16 games because of concussion-related symptoms.

He also was a healthy scratch twice during the regular season and three times during 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games before the Blues were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in six games in the Western Conference Second Round.

"Hockey-wise, it's good for me," Lehtera said of the trade. "It's always tough to leave when you know the city, you know the teammates, you know the staff and you have a house here and everything. It's always tough to leave, but I think for my career and hockey-wise, it's going to be better for me."


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Not everyone in the Flyers locker room will be a stranger. Lehtera and goaltender Brian Elliott were teammates for two seasons with the Blues, and forward Valtteri Filppula has been a teammate with Finland in international tournaments.

"I am excited because I kind of wanted to have a new start," Lehtera said. "Their people and coaches, they don't know me so I can start from the level where I have to show everything again. That's exciting. That makes me feel younger and more excited."

Lehtera said his early start to training last summer, so he could play in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for Finland, left him feeling tired last season. Because of that he has changed his offseason workout routine.

Video: NSH@STL, Gm2: Lehtera slams home rolling puck

"I felt out of gas last year during the season, different parts," he said. "It was hard to keep the game at a high level. There was a little bit more ups and downs than normal.

"Training-wise after the season, I decided already what I'm going to do different. This year I've already been going through that program. It's a little bit [of] new stuff and I think I'm in good shape and feeling confidence, good confidence."

One person who is confident in Lehtera bouncing back is Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.

"I still do believe in Jori and I told that to [Flyers general manager Ron Hextall], that he's a really proud player that didn't have the year that he wanted to have," Armstrong said. "I think he's going to bounce back and be a real good player, and I hope he is a real good player for Philadelphia."

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