September 30 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Last spring, Ville Leino obliterated the Flyers’ rookie playoff scoring record. Last night, in his first competitive action since last June when he had offseason hip surgery, Leino picked up right where he left off.
Leino picked up two assists – granted, in a 3-1 preseason win over a New York Islanders split squad team that would struggle to win in the AHL – but he looked closer to midseason form than a player who spent most of the summer on crutches.
“Ville seemed to have the puck a lot [last night]. He made a lot of plays,” observed coach Peter Laviolette, who also commented on Blair Betts’ debut after shoulder surgery. “I thought they both played a good game. I thought both of them coming in to the first night, they did a good job.”
Leino was just officially cleared for contact drills on Monday. He knew that no matter how hard he or his teammates practiced, he wouldn’t be able to really test it until he got into game action.
Leino was hit hard in two different instances last night – and fell down – but seemed unfazed. In fact, winning a puck battle on the wall in the first period is what setup Jeff Carter’s first goal.
“It’s obviously different than in practice,” Leino said. “But you need those contact situations. So probably in the next game, I’ll play a little stronger. I felt good for a period and a half. And then after that, I just got a little tired. Muscles get tired because of that contact and those battles. But it’s not pain or anything.”
Leino, 26, who spent almost the entire offseason rehabbing in Philadelphia instead of his native Finland, skated with Scott Hartnell and Carter. His other partner in crime, Danny Briere, is still battling a severe cold.
Laviolette has said he’d like to rekindle the magic that line created in last year’s playoff run.
“It was a lot of fun,” Leino said of playing with Hartnell again. “I like playing with him a lot. I just think the chemistry is there. It’s easy to play and you don’t have to think much.”
It’s good for Leino that he doesn’t have to think about his linemates – or the fact that the Flyers are relying on him to put up serious numbers this season. They will be missing Simon Gagne’s 17 goals and Arron Asham’s 10 goals from last season. And Leino, with seven goals and 14 assists in 19 playoff games, is one of the men expected to replace them.”
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