February 10, 2011
Lupul: 'It feels great' to be in Toronto
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul, welcome to Toronto.
A throng of reporters five-deep greeted the Maple Leafs’ newest player on Thursday morning at the Air Canada Centre, eager to hear what the forward from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., had to say about being acquired by the team just a day earlier.
“It feels great,” the at-ease Lupul said of his trade from the Anaheim Ducks. “With trades, everything happens pretty quickly but once you get into the city and through the airport and everything … Now, I’m just excited. I want to get out there and play.”
Lupul, a hard-shooting forward who has topped the 20-goal mark three times in his career, was acquired along with University of Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first-round pick Leafs GM Brian Burke made for the Ducks in 2008, and a conditional 2013 draft pick in return for veteran defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who is heading back to Anaheim.
“It’s going to be fun for me,” Lupul said after the Leafs morning skate, where was being tested for medical clearance. “This is definitely a complete 180 from Anaheim, where there’s only one or two reporters on a good day. So this is obviously a different situation here, but I think it’s going to be fun.”
Lupul has had some serious back issues in his career. He missed 59 games a year ago and has only played in 26 games with the Ducks this season. But he seems to be on the road to recovery and has five goals and eight assists this season in far less ice time than he is likely to get with the Leafs.
“It was really tough,” Lupul said of dealing with his injury and a blood infection that followed surgery. “I went in for basically a routine surgery and then things kind of went a little array. After that, I had a little infection and it seemed to be one thing after another. Going through something like that definitely makes you appreciate playing in the NHL and appreciate where you are a lot more.
“Right now, I’m just looking to put all that stuff behind me. I know it’s going to a topic a lot of people want to discuss, but right now I just want to get back to playing hockey and get back to the level where I’m capable of being at,” said Lupul, who is still taking antibiotics for the infection.
The Leafs are obviously counting on Lupul finding his former scoring touch. Adding another 20-plus goal scorer will certainly help Toronto’s cause and Lupul has another two years left on his contract after this season.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder will be wearing No. 19 when he makes his debut tonight against the red-hot New Jersey Devils (20-30-4). The Devils are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and have played well since Jacques Lemaire took over as coach again. New Jersey currently sits seven points behind Toronto (23-26-5) in the East. The Leafs have won four of five games since the all-star break.
Dealing Beauchemin, who was paired with captain Dion Phanuef for a good chunk of the season, has opened up a spot on the Leafs blue line.
Fourth-line forward John Mitchell is being sent back to the Marlies after clearing waivers on Thursday. Big defenceman Keith Aulie will be called up from the team and should be on the ice against the Devils.
“He’s been ready earlier,” coach Ron Wilson said of Aulie. “It’s been as much a numbers game as anything. We were healthy and Dion came back (from a leg injury). Our plan at the beginning of the year, we were hoping he would be ready around Christmas time. This move (the Beauchemin trade), I think part of it, Burkie (Leafs GM Brian Burke) thought that Keith was ready now … It’s going to be tough to replace Beauchemin’s minutes, obviously.”
Goaltender James Reimer (6-4-0, 2.44 GAA, .927SV%) will be back in net for the Leafs after posting a 5-3 victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.