Former Gophers defenseman and 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold was acquired by the St. Louis Blues from the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, and it appears the Golden Valley, Minn., native will make his Blues debut tonight in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild.
Leopold, who helped the University of Minnesota capture the 2002 NCAA title and racked up 144 points in 164 collegiate games, ranks first all-time at Minnesota in goals by a defenseman with 45 and third for points by a defenseman. He was a four-time All-WCHA selection as well as the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons -- Leopold was also a First Team All-American in 2000-01 and 2001-02.
Now in his 10th NHL season, Leopold has spent the last three seasons with the Sabres including a prominent 2010-11 season that saw the defenseman set a career high with 13 goals and 35 points.
Monday's matchup between the Blues and Wild is set for 7 p.m. CT at Xcel Energy Center with FOX Sports North broadcasting the action.
Check out a St. Louis' feature on Leopold ahead of tonight's debut.
By Louie Korac (@lkorac10) -- NHL.com Correspondent
When Jordan Leopold dozed off for his pregame nap Saturday afternoon, he did so as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Waking up was a different story.
It began a 24-hour whirlwind that saw Leopold change teams in a split second. But the newest St. Louis Blues defenseman has been through this routine before, with it being his sixth National Hockey League stop.
The 32-year-old Leopold, traded by the Sabres to the Blues for a 2013 second-round pick and a conditional 2013 fifth-round pick (that can turn into a fourth-round selection should the Blues win a playoff round), got the call from Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier prior to the Sabres facing the Washington Capitals.
"I was pre-game napping yesterday to get ready and play the Capitals," Leopold said after flying in and taking a physical. "I woke up and got a call from Darcy Regier and (he) quickly said, 'I ended up trading you.' ... I really didn't sleep (Saturday) night. I think I finally dotted out about 1:30 (a.m. local time). I got up at 4:30 (a.m.). It wasn't a good, quality night of sleep. After two short flights, here I am."
Leopold, who coach Ken Hitchcock said will be in the lineup when the Blues play the Minnesota Wild on Monday night, was able to have dinner with his three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 4. Then it was time to pack his hockey gear and take off to his new adventure, trying to get the Blues (17-14-2) into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a couple disappointing seasons with the Sabres, who've had high expectations.
"It was a couple tough years," said Leopold, who's in the final season of a three-year, $9-million contract. "You look at last year, and then this year the start we got off to wasn't the way we pictured it. You get to this point of the season, and of course the trade deadline looms. Guys are going to come and go. Of course, UFA's are the first to go. It's just a matter of time to see where I landed and when. I'm really excited to be here."
It is a fresh start for Leopold, who's also had stints with Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Florida. He will wear No. 33 with the Blues.
"I'm really excited," said Leopold, who has two goals and eight points in 24 games this season. "You look at where I just came from and where we are now, we're fighting for a playoff spot. It's a good opportunity for me. Hopefully I can be able to contribute and help the team accomplish that goal."
Leopold, who struggled at the start of the season, was a minus-8 in the first nine games he played. But he is plus-2 over his last 15 games and has four points in eight games since returning from an upper-body injury.
"When you get moved, you can't look at the team didn't want you," Leopold said of his situation with the Sabres, who are struggling at 13-17-6. "You have to look at the new (team) looking forward ... the new team really wanted you, and it's true. It's a fresh start for guys. This is a fresh start for me. I got off to a rough start this year in Buffalo and ended up playing my best hockey when I came back from injury a few weeks ago. I look to just step in here and do what I've been doing lately."
Hitchcock plans to insert Leopold into the lineup playing alongside Kevin Shattenkirk, and if it needs adjustment the team will plan accordingly.
"He's a steady, kind of multi-dimensional defenseman," Hitchcock said of Leopold, who has played withDavid Backes, Scott Nichol and Chris Stewart on previous teams. "He's good on the power play, either in a 2-1-2 or 1-3-1 setup. Either way, he's fine. He's played both in Buffalo.
"He's very good at transitioning the puck. He closes. He's got good mobility at closing defensively 5-on-5. ... He's got good transition speed, he's got good transition instincts. He sees the ice really well. He's a steady guy that's going to really help us."
"He was one of the vocal leaders for the short time I was in Colorado," Stewart said of Leopold, his teammate during the 2008-09 season. "He's a veteran guy who can make plays. I think he keeps the game easy. He doesn't try to do anything that's out of his personality. That veteran presence is definitely going to help down the stretch.
"He's one of those guys you don't notice in the game, but when you check the scoresheet, he had a goal and an assist and probably was a plus-2. He's going to log some quality minutes for us."
With Blues general manager Doug Armstrong making the trade for Leopold, it's an indication St. Louis, which woke up Monday morning in ninth place, one point behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, is in fact going to do whatever it can to solidify its position and go for it.
"We've never doubted that we're out of this," Shattenkirk said. "I know Army feels the same way. He obviously has a lot of faith in this team. We all believe in this team. To see a move like that, it's a good sign.
"It makes you feel confident, and it's something that we need. I think it's going to work out well."
For Shattenkirk, he'll do whatever's necessary to try and get acclimated with his new partner after pairing with Wade Redden in recent games.
"It takes a little time, without a doubt," Shattenkirk said. "It's hard for me to say, because I'm going to be the young guy and he's going to be the experienced one. It's a tough situation there to be talking to him, but just try to talk through as many plays as we can, as many plays as we can go through. Once you get that communication level down, I think that's where the chemistry really starts."
Leopold, who has 65 goals and 202 points in 610 career games, will try and do his part.
"My game is moving the puck and getting it to the guys that can do something with it, getting out of our own end and playing some good defense and being able to contribute on the other end if the situation arises," Leopold said. "I try to keep things pretty simple. I'm not a flashy player. I try to complement my d-partner and make him better out there."
Thoughts about the Gophers NCAA West Regional 3-2 loss against Yale.
Minnesota fell to Yale in the first game of the NCAA West Regional, 3-2 in overtime. Jesse Root scored the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs less than 10 seconds into the extra frame. The Gophers received goals by Nate Schmidt and Zach Budish to erase a two-goal deficit in the third in order and send the game to overtime. Minnesota's season ended after suffering back-to-back loses for the first time all season.
The game followed a similar path to the game against Colorado College at the WCHA Final Five. After a scoreless first period, Minnesota's opponent scored twice in the second period to take a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. Yale got on the board first courtesy of Kenny Agostino. The Bulldogs' second goal was scored by defenseman Gus Young on the power play. Minnesota lacked jump in the first two periods and failed to get quality opportunities around Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm.
Minnesota came back with much better effort in the third period and would tie the score to send the game to overtime. The Gophers' top-ranked power play finally converted on its fifth the chance of the game. Nate Schmidt's point shot found its way past Jeff Malcolm with a nice screen in front set by Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad. Zach Budish tied the score with a great redirect in front of the net. He received a fancy centering pass from Erik Haula, who was stationed in the corner. Budish's goal came 13:40 into the third period and was the last goal of regulation.
Season as a Whole
Minnesota's season concludes with today's loss. The Gophers stayed at or near the top of the national polls during the entire season, never dropping lower than fourth in the USCHO.com Poll. The highlight of the Gophers season was capturing a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champion. Overall, Minnesota won 26 games this season and did not lose a regular-season series all year. Erik Haula led a very talented group in scoring with 51 points. Freshman Adam Wilcox was a revelation in net, taking over the reigns in the first month of the season and running with it. Next year's version of Pride on Ice will undoubtedly have a different makeup, but the 2012-13 Gophers were one of the most talented in history and accomplished a lot.
Story by Minnesota Student Intern Josh Brennock
The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media Wednesday prior to flying off to Grand Rapids, Mich. for the NCAA West Regional beginning Friday afternoon.
The Gophers' opponent in the opening round of the tournament is the Yale Bulldogs. The Minnesota players are not too familiar with their Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent, but they are looking forward to the challenge.
"It is always fun to play a team new team like Yale," forward Nate Condon said. It is the first meeting between The Gophers and Bulldogs since Minnesota claimed a 7-3 victory during the 2002 Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena.
Head coach Don Lucia, who has coached alongside Yale head coach Keith Allain, offered some insight into how the Bulldogs like to play.
"(Yale) wants to get up and down the rink. They try to recruit skilled players," Lucia said. "This year, they had had a lot of success. They beat Denver, beat Colorado College, and tied Boston College all on the road."
Senior defenseman Seth Helgeson thinks the Gophers are well prepared to face Yale. "In our non-conference schedule we played a team like (Boston College), and they were a quick team, so we should be ready for (Yale)," Helgeson said. "We know we have to play physical, but we like to play an up and down type of game too."
A Gopher win on Friday afternoon means a matchup with either North Dakota or Niagara on Saturday. While some of the players admitted they might have to guard against looking ahead towards a potential matchup with archrival North Dakota, defenseman Nate Schmidt knows the focus needs to be on Yale.
"Hopefully, we will have a great game Friday night. I am just really excited to play Yale," Schmidt said. "If we win the game, whoever we get after that will be a great game."
All three games from the NCAA West Regional can be seen live on ESPNU. The Gophers will tangle with the Bulldogs on Friday at 1 p.m. CT. The regional final is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Gophers are two wins away from a return trip to the Frozen Four after reaching the crowning event of the college hockey season for the first time in seven seasons last year.
Story by Communications Student Intern Josh Brennock
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FOX SPORTS NORTH
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The Minnesota women's basketball team filmed numerous videos during the 2012-13 season that were used during home games, on Gophersports.com and on Twitter and Facebook. The end products used the best shots and were always professionally produced, but the Gophers had a lot more fun with the videos than their fans were able to see.
With 2012-13 coming to a close, Gophersports.com gives fans an inside look at some of the best bloopers from the year. Check out all of the fun that the team experiences behind the scenes!