GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For many of the Canes, the game against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight marks the end of a tough five-game road swing and little else.
For Jussi Jokinen, being back in the visitors locker room at Jobing.com Arena brings up some good memories.
In February 2009, Jokinen's career seemingly was at a crossroads. The Tampa Bay Lightning was looking for someone to take the Finnish forward, who had fallen out of favor with then-Bolts coach Rick Tocchet, and the Canes worked a deal to bring him to Carolina.
For Jokinen, joining the Canes meant a long flight from Tampa to Phoenix on the day of the trade. He arrived at Jobing.com Arena minutes before game time, with no time for introductions.
"It was the start of something pretty good," Jokinen said after today's morning skate. "It was a five-hour flight and I had my pregame meal right there on the plane. The guys were coming off after the pregame warmup and I just threw my gear on and went out.
"It's been pretty fun since then."
Jokinen would help the Canes reach the playoffs in 2009, then become something of a hockey folk hero with some of his playoff heroics. A year ago, he scored a career-high 30 goals.
But on that February day, he wasn't sure what was in front of him. A lot of things, he said, were bouncing through his mind on the flight out West.
"The last two or three months in Tampa Bay, it was pretty clear they didn't think I was a good hockey player anymore," Jokinen said. "Obviously my salary was pretty high for my points and my play at that time. The last two months there, I was just waiting for someone to give me another chance.
"It was a lot of fun, right from the start with Carolina because we were in the playoff chase and every game was so important."
Jokinen began this season at center but has been shifted to the wing on Eric Staal's line opposite Chad LaRose. He has just one assist in the last four games but the line has sizzled the last two games -- Staal and LaRose have each notched two goals and two assists.
"The last 10 games last year we played together and had pretty good chemistry," Jokinen said. "Those two guys have been really good the last few games, and I know I can be a little bit better and help them more."
A return to the desert might kick-start Jokinen's season. It's happened before.