AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Jordan Leopold just couldn’t stay healthy last season, with one affliction after another knocking the Colorado Avalanche defenceman out of commission.
It was an all too familiar experience, the same thing happening the season before.
But he’s hopeful he can finally kick his injury-riddled luck.
“I feel healthy – and I mean it,” said Leopold. “The sky’s blue and it’s not that dark grey as it’s been in the past.”
Leopold had two goals and two assists to lead his White team to a 9-0 rout over the Burgundy squad Monday night in a scrimmage at the Cadet Ice Arena.
The 28-year-old dealt with a hip ailment and wrist surgery early last year, followed by a lacerated leg and a bout of pneumonia. Later in the season, he took a blow to the head from Dallas forward Steve Ott, forcing him to miss more time.
All told, Leopold was sidelined for 35 games.
“It was very frustrating,” he said.
A myriad of injuries cost Leopold all but 15 games in 2006-07. He was hampered by a hernia, which required surgery. He was also plagued by a groin injury and fractured his wrist.
“It was a long checklist,” Leopold said as he shook his head. “But this is a new year. I’m way more positive this year. I feel like I have something to prove, something that I haven’t proved in the last couple of years.”
It was only a scrimmage, but Leopold got off to a good start, scoring the game’s first two goals. The former Calgary Flames blue-liner was on the ice for six of his team’s nine goals in regulation.
Avalanche coach Tony Granato wouldn’t mind seeing more of that in the regular season.
“He’s a heck of a hockey player,” Granato said.
When healthy, that is.
“Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong for him injury-wise,” Granato said. “But he’s due to put together a streak here where he can stay healthy for a while.”
Leopold is hoping he’s put his propensity for injury behind him. He said he switched up his off-season training a little bit, and feels better than he has in quite a while.
“I was able to do some things that I couldn’t do in prior summers – run after my kids, play kickball, baseball,” Leopold said with a grin. “There’s no way to prepare for injuries – you just can’t. But I’m feeling good.”
David Jones scored three goals, Milan Hejduk added two and Ryan Smyth had three assists to lead the White team’s rout. The Burgundy squad’s only two goals came when T.J. Hensick and Chris Stewart scored in a shootout session at the conclusion of the game.
Other than that, the Burgundy team, led by captain Joe Sakic, couldn’t get anything past the combination of Andrew Raycroft and Jason Bacashihua in net.
“It’s just nice to get out here,” Raycroft said. “It’s a good start.”
Jones was more excited about playing against Sakic, who’s back for his 20th season, than scoring a hat trick.
“He’s still one of the best players in the league,” Jones said. “It’s great to skate with him out there.”
And the hat trick?
“I just got some good chances today and I managed to bury them,” Jones sheepishly said. “It was fun.”
Avalanche starting goalie Peter Budaj allowed two goals in 20 minutes of work on Monday night. He’s taking over for Jose Theodore, who was lured away by Washington in the off-season.
Paul Stastny (hip bruise), Marek Svatos (knee) and Wojtek Wolski (foot) were kept out of the scrimmage as a precaution.
Svatos is still recovering from a torn ACL that caused him to miss the final 16 games of the season. Wolski and Stastny were recently dinged up in training camp that began Saturday.
Stastny finished as the team’s leading scorer last season with 71 points, despite missing 15 games after having his appendix removed. He also injured his knee in Game 3 of the Avalanche’s playoff series with the Red Wings, but said it’s fully recovered.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Stastny, who was named to his first all-star squad last season.