Lupul impressed by Kessel

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:59 PM ET

TORONTO - Recent acquisition Joffrey Lupul had some flattering words about linemate Phil Kessel after the Leafs’ morning skate on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if I’ve played with a player quite like him in my career,” Lupul said of Kessel, who had eight points in his past four games heading into last night’s contest against Pittsburgh. Kessel also entered the game with 26 goals on the season. “He’s kind of a game-breaker. When he’s on a roll like this, you just look to get him the puck, even if it’s in your own end or in the neutral zone. He can make something out of nothing. So that’s kind of what Bozie (centre Tyler Bozak) and I are trying to do right now. Any time we can get it to Phil, we’re going to get it to him.”

That’s pretty high praise considering Lupul was teammates with the likes of Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan on the Anaheim Ducks before being acquired by Toronto on Feb. 9.

Dreams come true

Goalie James Reimer is living his childhood dream of playing in the NHL. Now to see if he can fulfill the Leafs’ dreams of getting into the playoffs. Coach Ron Wilson stated on Tuesday that the team plans to go with Reimer as its starter as long as the Leafs are in playoff contention and he backed up his words by having the goaltender in net last night against the Penguins. That’s a pretty heavy load to carry for a guy who has started all of 20 NHL games. But rather than worry about the pressure, Reimer is just enjoying the moment.

“It’s a crazy story, really,” the soon-to-be 23-year-old Reimer said after the morning skate. “When you’re a kid, you dream about (playing in the NHL). I remember my kindergarten yearbook. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ You want to be a hockey player, right? I think back to the small community that I came from (Arborg, Man.) and the steps and all the doors that had to be opened and all the little miracles that happened for me to get here ... It’s been a fun ride.”

Nickel saved?

It is special that, after starting the season with the Marlies, Reimer will be backstopping the Leafs as they make their playoff push. It’s also more than just a bit surprising. No one — not even his coach — expected Reimer to be in the picture when the Leafs’ season began.

“I wouldn’t have bet a plugged nickel that he’d be one of our goalies this year, to be honest with you,” Wilson said after the morning skate. “We wanted him to play in the minors and continue getting better and develop.

“Circumstances have allowed him an opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it. He’s much farther along than we thought. And that’s good for him. But I didn’t have any expectations for Reims other than have him here in the American league.”

Better D needed

Wilson says he has been happy with his young team’s determination and never-say-die attitude. But he would like to see an improvement defensively.

“We’ve given up too many shots (in the past couple of games),” Wilson said. “That’s what we’ve talked about. The forwards helping out the D and the D helping themselves and helping our offence by moving the puck quicker.

“When we have a little bit of success, we sometimes forget the reason why we have it. We get carried away, open things up and we get burned. So the next five or six weeks play tight defensively, push the pace, play to our strengths and I think we’ll be OK.”

Loose Leafs

Wilson on Kessel, who has rediscovered his scoring touch recently: “When the puck goes in the net, Phil feels good about himself. The whole game just gets easier for him … He just gets happy.” … The Penguins had won the three previous games at the ACC heading into last night’s contest.


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