EDMONTON - Now that he’s back, Joffrey Lupul can’t wait for things to return to normal.
After sitting out for an entire year following surgery to repair a herniated disc and a subsequent blood infection, the Anaheim Ducks forward played his first home game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday, before a road trip brought the Fort Saskatchewan native back to Edmonton Tuesday.
“I’m happy to have some of it out of the way a little bit. It’s nice to share this with family and everything, but to have the first game back and get that out of the way … it will be nice to just settle back in and start feeling like I’m just part of the team again,” said the 27-year-old, who was originally told he would miss six to eight weeks. “It was tough, definitely. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout it but the first thing you’ve got to do is try and maintain a positive attitude. As soon as you start complaining and (asking): ‘Why me?’ and things like that, you’re not going to get any better.
“Now I’ve made it back and now I want to be where I was at the year before.”
While he still has a way to go, it pales in comparison to how far he’s come.
“It’s been a long road for Lupes,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. “If you would have seen him six months ago, you would have thought maybe this guy wasn’t going to play again.
“He looked almost to a point where he couldn’t stand up straight. His body was leaner than I’d ever seen him, he was somewhere around 175 pounds. He didn’t look very good at all. He was a mess, actually.”
Now back to his listed 206 pounds, the six-foot-one winger is back in the lineup and taking everything in stride.
“He’s battled a long ways back,” Carlyle said. “The first game back, I thought there were some situations where it looked like he was a little winded in, but you can expect that. The pace of the game was pretty good against Phoenix, we did a lot of chasing the puck and that in itself can tire you out.”
But it has certainly been better than the alternative — sitting, watching and waiting, which Lupul has grown much more tired of.
“The wind is a work in progress,” Lupul admitted. “I feel fairly good. I played a couple games in the American League, but that’s a completely different story. The game has so much of a different pace.
“(Sunday) was a pretty good indication for me, it was an emotional game to be back, I was excited and (Tuesday night was) the same. I’ve got a lot of friends and family here.”
Make that two dozen, to be exact. That’s just the number of tickets Lupul purchased himself, let alone the other half-dozen or so who turned out on their own.
“It’s an expensive night,” Lupul laughed. “Hopefully we (gave) them their money’s worth … or my money’s worth.”
NUMBER’S UP: Switching to the No. 19 sweater, Lupul said he wasn’t trying to mark a new chapter in his life as much as remembering back to a time when he was a young hockey fan.
“Growing up, I was a big fan of (Steve) Yzerman and (Joe) Sakic and those guys. I always liked that number, actually,” he said. “They shipped (Ryan) Whitney out of town so I took his number.”