Sami Lepisto gets the nod in Game 2; Sean O’Donnell sits
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org April 15, 2012 12:36AM
Phoenix Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23), of Sweden, collides with Chicago Blackhawks' Corey Crawford (50) during the first period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series on Saturday, April 14, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Updated: May 16, 2012 8:27AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Always optimistich, defenseman Sami Lepisto said weeks ago while he rehabbed his injured left leg that he would play again this year, including in the playoffs.
It didn’t take long for Lepisto to get his predicted opportunity.
Lepisto was inserted in the lineup in place of veteran Sean O’Donnell for Game 2 against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday. It was the only lineup change coach Joel Quenne-
ville made as Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen, Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik were scratched again.
Lepisto missed 13 games with a left leg injury before playing in the regular-season finale against the Red Wings in Detroit, which he considered crucial.
“That Detroit game was huge,” said Lepisto, who was paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson Saturday. “I needed to be back just before the playoffs and get the rhythm going a little bit. I was out for a certain number of games there so it was good. It was huge.”
Lepisto spent parts of two seasons with the Coyotes. He said he still considers it home in a way and also thinks the area can work as a hockey market. He played in seven playoff games for them.
“It feels like there is always potential,” said Lepisto, who was a healthy scratch in 43 of the first 54 games of the season for the Hawks. “It seems like they have good crowds that always come out for the playoffs. I think they were struggling this year attendance-wise, but there’s potential.”
As far as his leg injury, Lepisto said it’s back to normal.
“Everything is great now,” Lepisto said. “I feel perfect.”
Coyotes top scorer Radim Vrbata returned in Game 2 after suffering an upper-body injury in the opener. Vrbata left Game 1 early in the first period after getting hit by Andrew Shaw and falling awkwardly. Shaw said he thought Vrbata hurt his shoulder.
“We were aware of him going into the series,” Quenneville said of the former Hawk. “He’s a dangerous player and ... he’s one of those guys in tight areas that gets his shot away so we want to make sure we’re hard on him.”