Oil's great for Lupul

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

EDMONTON -- He was the centrepiece of the mega-trade that fulfilled Chris Pronger's request to leave town.

After a solid camp, he started the regular season last night on the top line alongside Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff.

It's all been a dream come true for Joffrey Lupul, a Fort Saskatchewan native who grew up cheering for the Edmonton Oilers.

There are high hopes for this year's Oil, aiming to become the first 300-goal team since the Stanley Cup-winning squad of 1989-90.

And Lupul is expected to be a big part of that offensive output, meaning anything less than the 28 goals he scored last season with the Anaheim Ducks may not satisfy Oilers fans hungry for a return to the Cup final.

So, is he feeling the pressure?

"Well there's some pressure that goes along with it but, I've said before, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, too," said Lupul before his Oilers opened the regular season against the Calgary Flames in a late tilt last night. "If I don't do what I'm capable of, no one will be more disappointed than me."

Lupul was a key player for the Ducks in the playoffs, helping to eliminate the Calgary Flames in seven games before a breakout, four-goal game against Colorado in the second round.

The Ducks fell to the Oilers in the Western Conference final but the consolation was his Edmonton-based family was able to keep cheering. His grandfather, Tom Mayson, is part of the Oilers ownership group and Lupul's dad and brothers are longtime fans.

"They've seen me play quite a lot in the past," said Lupul.

"But not for this team and that's exciting."

Which made the trade that brought Joffrey back to northern Alberta -- along with defenceman Ladislav Smid, in exchange for Pronger -- feel like a very early Christmas gift.

The just-turned-23-year-old rounds out the Oilers' top line, which means he's now playing with one of his childhood idols in Smyth.

"Yeah, I had season tickets when Smitty played," said Lupul. "I used to like Smitty a lot, it's great."

Despite a seven-year age difference, Lupul has no intention of making his new linemate feel every hour of his 30 years by mentioning the fact he was once a fan, cheering on the gritty forward as a boy.

"No, not yet," said Lupul. "Maybe when I know him a little better."


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