Lupul has fit right in with surging Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul scores a goal against Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas. (REUTERS/Brian...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul scores a goal against Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 PM ET

TORONTO - His recent points surge aside, Joffrey Lupul thinks his best hockey as a Maple Leaf is still ahead of him.

Getting stronger and more comfortable by the game, one of the team’s January acquisitions is fast establishing himself as a front-line winger the team so desperately needed.

With 25 games under his belt with the Leafs, Lupul has eight goals and eight assists and is thriving on the wing with centre Tyler Bozak and fellow winger Phil Kessel.

But seven of those points have come in his last six games as the Leafs make a spirited late run for a playoff spot.

“Everything since I’ve been here has been great,” Lupul said following the Leafs’ practice on Monday. “My big thing right now is that I want to make sure what’s happening is not a fluke, for myself and for the team.

“(I want to) go and have a good off-season and come back next year and be ready to carry on like we’ve played the past 25 games.”

The transition hasn’t been easy for Lupul. When he arrived in Toronto from Anaheim, he had been off for essentially a full calendar year due to injury and sickness. His weight is up to 210 pounds now, but at its lowest after back surgery and a serious infection, Lupul was down to 170.

Since arriving, he’s gained the confidence of coach Ron Wilson, who likes Lupul’s eagerness to establish a presence in front of the opposition’s net.

“He’s starting to play his way into game shape after missing almost a full year,” Wilson said. “He’s really strong on the boards so he keeps a lot of plays alive and he can also finish, obviously. When we’ve needed big goals, he finds a way to do it.

“It’s been probably a tough season for him, but I think he’s playing his best hockey now.”


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