SUN Hockey Pool

Leo awaits Avs debut

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Jordan Leopold still hasn't played a game for the Colorado Avalanche but you wouldn't know it by looking at his face.

Sporting fresh stitches on his chin, the former Calgary Flames defenceman reacquainted himself with the local media -- albeit from a stall in the visitors' dressing room rather than the more familiar one down the hall.

"You know, it's funny. I took a wristshot in the chin last year against Detroit here and I actually took a slapshot in practise yesterday right on the chin on the same cut. It just reopened," said the 26-year-old who was shipped south in the Alex Tanguay trade on draft day.

"All the nerve cells are dead in there anyway, it doesn't really hurt too bad. It looks bad, probably."

The good news is when Leopold finally hits the ice for his season debut -- likely Saturday in Vancouver -- he won't look out of place.

And with any luck, all the hard work he's put in preparing to come back from off-season hernia surgery will pay off with a smooth transition.

Leopold was the last player off the Saddledome surface yesterday after a gruelling hour-long morning skate.

While with the Flames, he was known to almost never turn down an optional practice but the Golden Valley, Minn., product admits he's getting tired of the intense workouts with no game-day payoff.

"I tell ya, I'm sick and tired of it, honestly," said Leopold with a laugh. "I've skated kind of on and off the last two and a half months.

"It's been a long process. It's had ups and downs. Now I'm at the final stage where I'm getting the good bag skate. That hour-long, hour-and-a-half long practice.

"It's tough. It's actually tougher than playing a game. I don't want much more of it."

He can joke and laugh about the hard work and a drill that involved pulling assistant coach Tony Granato around the rink but appreciates the seriousness of his recovery process.

"It's been good," said Leopold.

"I feel like I'm getting back in where I need to be."

When healthy, the Avs hope they will have a top defenceman capable of logging big minutes and contributing in both ends.

Leopold should be able to do just that and credits his time in Calgary with making him a better player -- especially in his own zone.

"I came in and I didn't know too much about defence, really," said Leopold, who won the NCAA's Hobey Baker Award as an offensive-minded blueliner out of the University of Minnesota.

"Darryl (Sutter) came in midway through my first season and taught a lot of things. (He was) really hard on me that first season, really taught me to be a man and be accountable.

"Overall, I learned a lot of things. A lot of good things that can be taken along the rest of my career.

"Hopefully I have a successful and long career."


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