Lupul will be an asset

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

To say Joffrey Lupul gave a little tease of what he can be as a Maple Leaf would be misleading.

Yes, Lupul will get his scoring chances, as he did in his Leafs debut on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre.

And, yes, there will be times when his chances become goals. With three seasons of at least 20 goals, including 2005-06 when he had a personal-best 28 with the Anaheim Ducks, itís a sure bet, as long as he stays healthy, that Lupul will produce.

The 27-year-old had a spring in his step (anyone who does not in his first game with a new team probably was not worth the acquisition) and went to the net hard. That was before he appeared to run out of gas in the third period.

An inch or two up the blade of his stick, and Lupul probably would have scored the go-ahead goal in the third. Instead, a sweet saucer pass from Clarke MacArthur bounced off the bladeís heel. A toe drag later on would have looked even better had it worked.

Had Lupul not had to skip the morning skate because the Leafs were waiting for Francois Beauchemin to pass a physical with the Ducks, some of those close chances might have gone in the net.

Lupul and MacArthur, teammates during the 2002-03 season in junior with the Medicine Hat Tigers, had some chemistry with their centre, Tyler Bozak, and the signs point to a trio that should provide offence.

In the end, Lupul will provide depth. But heís not going to be the big fish or the driving force that sends the Leafs to the playoffs, whenever that may be.

From the hash marks

If he is going to be paired with captain Dion Phaneuf in the long term, part of Keith Aulieís job will be to help cover up his captainís defensive warts. That could be a challenge since Aulie, all of 21 years old, played in just his 13th NHL game and is a long way from becoming a fully functioning NHL defenceman. One thing about the 6-foot-6, 222-pound Aulie: He really is one of those players you notice as soon as he steps on the ice. A tower on skates, his stick looks like a small tree with a blade attached to the end of it ... Aulie, recalled from the Toronto Marlies when John Mitchell cleared waivers and was sent down, had a smart game. He and Phaneuf did a good job in shutting down Ilya Kovalchuk (before the winning goal). Aulie rocked Kovalchuk with a big hit along the boards in the first period and overall was a physical presence. ďI know my strength is my size, and I have to go out there and use it,Ē Aulie said. ďIím 6-foot-6 and itís not good for much if you are not throwing around your body.Ē ... Part of the adjustment for Aulie will come from getting comfortable with more ice time. The man he is replacing, Beauchemin, averaged 23 minutes 45 seconds a game before he was traded to Anaheim. Aulie wonít get to that level yet, and played 21 minutes 56 seconds against the Devils. In 12 games with the Leafs earlier this season, Aulie averaged 13 minutes 32 seconds a game.

Point shots

Phil Kesselís goalless streak is at 13 games, one short of his longest drought since he had 11 goals as a rookie with the Boston Bruins in 2006-07. Two years ago, Kessel went 14 games without a goal. But as he did against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, Kesselís hockey smarts led to a Leafs goal. Instead of being frustrated on the spot when he was stoned twice by Johan Hedberg, Kessel stuck with the puck after the second save and centred to Nikolai Kulemin for a 1-0 Toronto lead. Kessel is getting lots of chances, which is important, and, sooner or later, something will go in ... Ron Wilson isnít a popular man in Toronto, not that he really cares, and some fans voiced their dislike of him on a bedsheet with the words ďFire WilsonĒ painted on it. The sheet, unfolded for all to see, was passed around one end of the ACC early in the second period before an usher confiscated it ... In the past, Devils forward David Clarkson, a native of Mimico, has been on the hook for as many as 30 tickets when he visits the ACC. But not on Thursday night, as Clarkson bought four. ďImmediate family only,Ē Clarkson said ... Too bad about Martin Brodeurís knee injury. The Devils netminder played in a full game 1,029 times. Patrick Roy, had 1,029 appearances in a career that ended in 2003. Once Brodeur completes one more full game, he will have finished more games than any other goalie has played in overall ... Kulemin forechecked deep in the Devils end during a New Jersey power play and drew a hooking penalty to Devils defenceman Mark Fayne because he would not stop moving his feet.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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