Leopold hopes to enjoy healthy year

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The Calgary Flames' acquisition in the big draft-day deal of 2006 is long gone.

The Colorado Avalanche's end of that transaction is hoping this will finally be the season he fully shows what he can do.

While Alex Tanguay is now a memory for the Flames, Jordan Leopold is looking for a full season of health to prove why the Avs were willing to part with the talented Tanguay for him and a pair of second-round draft choices.

"My job is to stay healthy and to perform to my abilities and I'm going to do that," Leopold said after yesterday's morning skate. "I feel good. It's probably the best I've felt in three, four years. Last year, it was tough off the start, muscle things and a broken wrist, and I got behind the eight-ball right away."

Last season was actually the better of the two campaigns since the talented defencemen was sent to the Mile High City. He only missed 39 games in the 2007-08 season. But that just shows how rough a ride it's been for Leopold.

The 2006-07 season never even started before he was sidelined because of hernia surgery. After missing 25 games, he returned only to be on the shelf 17 more because of a groin injury.

His season ended early, too, having been shut down the final 25 games because of a wrist injury.

Last year started no better. After missing two games due to a hip injury, Leopold's wrist required surgery, which cost him 25 games. The rest of the way, he missed time because of a leg injury (four games), illness (two), a head injury (five) and a hip problem (seven).

You can understand him not wanting to be reminded of it all.

"Those days in the past were tough -- and were tough to swallow at the time -- but the future looks bright. I'm excited," said the 28-year-old, who spent three seasons in Calgary. "The past is the past -- we've got to leave it back there. It's a fresh start -- I feel good, confident and am playing well.

"I can't let those evil thoughts come into my mind."

Instead, Leopold is looking to make the most of his situation, which has the potential be very good.

The Avs may not be a sexy pick for a Stanley Cup title, but they still boast a strong couple of forward lines with veteran Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth, along with young gunners Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski.

Defensively, the Avs are sound, too, with Adam Foote, Scott Hannan, Brett Clark, John-Michael Liles and Leopold's regular playing partner Ruslan Salei.

Salei wouldn't fit into the same category his long-time partner here, Robyn Regehr, but Leopoold is starting to build a strong rapport.

"Since Rusty came over last year, we've got a lot of opportunity to play with each other. We have good chemistry, both enjoy playing with each other," Leopold said of Salei. "We haven't got off to a great start, but we're looking at it positive, and we'll work things out."

---

NOTABLES

The morning skate had a twist. Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped in with his son Ben to visit the Flames. Ben even suited up and hit the ice and was given the chance to shoot on G Miikka Kiprusoff. Certainly the Saddledome was much busier than normal with

all the security, Prime Minister's Office staffers and media, but the players wouldn't call it a distraction. "No, no. It's a huge honour for all of us as players -- not something that comes along often," said captain Jarome Iginla ... Avalanche RW Ian Laperriere feigned indignation Harper didn't visit his team. "He didn't even stop in to say hello. He won't have my vote."

---

SUMMARY

FLAMES 5, AVALANCHE 4

FIRST PERIOD

1. Calgary, Boyd 1 (Lombardi, Bourque) 3:21 (pp)

2. Calgary, Bertuzzi 2 (Cammalleri, Langkow) 4:17 (pp)

3. Colorado, McLeod 2 (McCormick) 11:48

4. Calgary, Conroy 1 (Glencross, Phaneuf) 16:31

5. Colorado, Liles 1 (Stastny, Smyth) 19:30 (pp)

Penalties -- Tucker Col (hooking) 1:46, Laperriere Col (hooking) 3:21, Regehr Cal (high-sticking) 5:11, Colorado bench (too many men; served by Arnason) 6:35, Moss Col (interference) 12:21, Glencross Cal (hooking) 18:43, McCormick Col, Iginla Cal (fighting) 20:00.

SECOND PERIOD

6. Colorado, Smyth 1 (Stastny, Sakic) 9:00 (pp)

Penalties -- Leopold Col (hooking) 2:36, Sarich Cal (roughing) 7:44, Guite Col (hooking) 9:32.

THIRD PERIOD

7. Calgary, Iginla 1 (Phaneuf, Cammalleri) 7:23 (pp)

8. Calgary, Bertuzzi 3 (Iginla, Langkow) 11:00

9. Colorado, Guite 1 (Laperriere, Leopold) 11:18

Penalties -- Regehr Cal (tripping) 0:36, Foote Col (delay of game) 6:02, Phaneuf Cal (interference) 13:41, Wolski Col (hooking) 19:54.

Shots on goal by

Colorado 10 5 14--29

Calgary 12 15 8--35

Goal -- Colorado: Budaj (L,0-3-0); Calgary: Kiprusoff (W,1-1-1).

Power plays (goals-chances) -- Colorado: 2-6; Calgary: 3-7.

Referees -- Tom Kowal, Kyle Rehman. Linesmen -- Brad Lazarowich, Mike Cvik.

Attendance -- 19,289 (19,289).


Videos

Photos