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Kings acquire Halpern, Purcell to Bolts

by John McGourty
The Los Angeles Kings acquired veteran center Jeff Halpern, an excellent defensive forward, from the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday in exchange for third-year pro Teddy Purcell, the 2008 AHL rookie of the year, and a third-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, that originally belonged to the Florida Panthers.

Halpern, 33, had 9 goals and 8 assists for 17 points with 27 penalty minutes and a minus-14 rating in 55 games for the Lightning. He had 2 power-play goals and one game winner. Only four Lightning players have positive ratings this season.

Halpern ranked sixth among Lightning forwards with an average of 15:38 minutes of ice time per game. He was second among forwards by averaging 2:24 minutes of penalty-kill time and ninth with 1:38 minutes on the power play. He led Lightning forwards with 38 blocked shots and he won 52 percent of his faceoffs, third-best among forwards with 15 or more games. His 23 takeaways rank sixth among Lightning forwards.

Purcell, 24, has 3 goals and 3 assists with four penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating in 41 games this season. But he has played in only six of the Kings' past 25 games, sitting out as a healthy scratch. The NHL is the first level at which he's struggled. Purcell left his Newfoundland home to play for the Notre Dame Hounds, a prep school in southern Saskatchewan, and then was the leading scorer on the USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in his first season and then runnerup his second year.

But Purcell went undrafted and chose to play for the University of Maine, where he had 16 goals and 43 points in 40 games. He signed with the Kings in August 2007 and that season led their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, in scoring wityh 25 goals and 83 assists in 67 games.

Purcell has 8 goals and 17 assists in 91 NHL games.

For most of his career, Halpern had the southernmost hockey origin of all NHL players, having grown up in Potomac, Md. For that reason, he has been an inspiration to a younger generation of American hockey players. His local roots made him a popular figure when he played for the Washington Capitals from 1999-2006. Halpern was named captain of the Capitals in 2005.

Halpern played prep hockey at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and Tier II hockey in Ontario for the Stratford Cullitons, then four years at Princeton University, where he was twice the leading scorer. Undrafted, he signed with his hometown Capitals in March 1999 and played six games that season with their AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates.

That was the only time he played minor professional hockey. Halpern joined the Capitals in 1999-00 and had 18 goals and 29 points in 79 games. He has gone on to 131 goals and 183 assists for 314 points, with 542 penalty minutes and a minus-31 rating, in 704 NHL games over 11 seasons. He has six goals and six assists with 23 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His teams have never won a playoff round.

Halpern's best season was his second, in 2000-01, when he had 21 goals and was plus-13 in 80 games. His highest points total came in 2003-04 when he had 19 goals and 46 points but was minus-21 in 79 games.

Halpern signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Stars in 2005 and played two seasons with them until the Feb. 26, 2008 trade that sent Halpern and Jussi Jokinen, Mike Smith and a fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay for Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist.

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