Can Ville Leino follow up a great playoff run with a productive season?

Thumbnail image for leinobrow.jpgThe Philadelphia Flyers went from a solid team to a dangerously deep group in large part because injuries thrust lower line players (and even guys who were often healthy scratches) into bigger roles during the playoffs. Danny Briere ended up being the leader in playoff points even though many in the hockey world gave up on him. Claude Giroux had a fantastic run as well.

Perhaps the most surprising development was Ville Leino’s growth from a disappointing Finnish League project with the Detroit Red Wings to a red-hot scoring force with the Flyers. Leino put up 21 points in the playoffs skating on a line with Briere and Scott Hartnell. With his contract expiring after this season, it will be interesting to see if Leino can follow up that great playoff run with a full season of success.

Anthony Sanfilippo looks back at his triumphs from last season and wonders about the 2010-11 campaign.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leinosurrounded.jpgAs coach Peter Laviolette likes to say, though, in hockey, injury breeds opportunity – it’s all about who wants to take advantage of it.

For 19 games last spring, Leino did just that. Partnered with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell to complete the most dynamic line in the playoffs, Leino finished with 21 points in the postseason, an NHL record for rookies. Considering he had a hard time even getting on the ice for the Flyers prior to the postseason, that’s a pretty remarkable figure.

Now, Leino is set to be a fixture on a deep Flyers team with plans of going one step further than it did last season. He will start the season with Hartnell and Briere on what amounts to the Flyers’ second line, and he is being counted on to provide a good chunk of offense for the first time since his days playing in the Finnish Elite League.


Leino has the talent to be a 25-goal scorer. In his final season in Finland (2007-08) he had 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points for Jokerit. Of course, that was the last time he was allowed to play the game in his style.

“I feel more confident and I have the trust of the coaches and (other) players,” Leino said. “They’re not thinking, ‘What’s he doing?’ I feel confident to play the way I want. You need that confidence and trust if you’re going to go out there and play (well).”

Leino, Giroux and Jeff Carter all have the dangling monetary carrot in front of them this season, so the Flyers could be driven by normal contributors such as Mike Richards and Chris Pronger while benefiting from an especially inspired supporting cast. Many will critique their goaltending, but if Leino & Co. play well enough it might not matter.

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    Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

    Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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    Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

    Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

    In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

    John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

    And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

    The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

    Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

    Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

    Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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    Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

    He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

    “I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

    Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

    The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


    That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

    But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

    And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

    To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

    “I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

    Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

    Robin Lehner
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    Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

    Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

    (So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

    While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

    Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


    The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

    Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

    Ryan Johansen

    Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

    This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

    More (transcribed from video):

    “That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

    “What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

    The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

    It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

    Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

    All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.