November 20, 2011
Lupul finds the touch
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - This time last year, Joffrey Lupul was wondering if he could ever play effectively again, never mind crack the top 10 of NHL scoring.
But suddenly, he’s back on the 50-point clip he showed in his best years with Philadelphia and Anaheim. He’s using all the tools; speed, size and skill that the Maple Leafs lost en masse the past week with their glut of injuries. From stripping Jeff Schultz to set up the first Leaf goal, to some soccer moves that resulted in a Tyler Bozak goal to juking Alex Ovechkin to engineer Phil Kessel’s 14th, it was a great night for the left winger.
“It’s a good story,” coach Ron Wilson said of Lupul’s potential first full season since 2008-09 before back woes ensued. “All our stories here are about who’s not playing and there’s no stories about the two top scorers in the NHL (Lupul and Kessel). We’ve made moves to get these guys so let’s talk about the people who are here, who are playing really well.”
Lupul, who had a hat trick this year against the Devils, added a goal for a four-point night in Saturday’s 7-1 demolition of the Capitals, giving him 24 points in 20 games. He might have had more had the Leafs not backed away with their big lead to conserve energy for a Sunday afternoon game in Carolina.
“We knew we were on the verge of one of those breakout nights,” Lupul said. “I couldn’t have guessed (he’d be so high in NHL scoring) in a million years. But it’s a long year and hopefully I can stay healthy. What a difference a year makes, I’m just so thankful I got the opportunity to play a lot of minutes and be relied upon.
“My job on the line (with Kessel and Bozak) hasn’t changed. Be on the forecheck, be hard on pucks create turnovers and look to make plays. I’m not going to try and be a big offensive player every time I touch the puck. This was one of those nights I just wanted to keep being out there, but you want to make sure you’re 100% for Sunday.”
Blue line callup Korbinian Holzer’s timing couldn’t have been better. With Mike Komisarek downgraded to an eight-week absence with a broken arm, Holzer had stepped up his play with the Marlies and it culminated with a power-play goal in Saturday afternoon’s 3-2 win over Rochester, just hours after it was announced Komisarek would require surgery.
Holzer is not the same tentative player who didn’t do much in a two-game callup last year. The 6-foot-3 German has demonstrated some of the toughness that the Leafs will need in front of the net with Komisarek out. You stick him, he’ll stick you back. He was playing well in his own zone all year and even wore the A for a couple of games for the Marlies.
This would have been a chance for Keith Aulie to re-introduce himself to the Toronto lineup, but he’s just coming back from injury and needs a few games before he challenges for the No. 7 spot on the Leafs.
Mr. Big, Alex Ovechkin, might have as well have stayed home with the injured Mike Green ... “We can’t beat any goalie right now,” Ovie said of being stoned by The Monster, Jonas Gustavsson. “They played unbelievable,” Caps’ Mike Knuble said. “They beat us in every facet of the game ...
Somewhere, John Ferguson was smiling. Holzer was called up and Matt Frattin had his first goal. Both were his draft picks in 2006 and 2007 ... How badly needed was that goal rush against the Caps? The Leafs had been out-scored 25-8 in 25-8 in regulation when losing five of the past six ... Matthew Lombardi’s left arm was in a sling as he watched from the press box ... Follow the bouncing coaches. Bruce Boudreau is feeling the heat in Washington after four straight losses, Toronto ended its three-game slide and now goes to Carolina where Paul Maurice is hanging on by his fingernails. “Every streak you hit rock bottom,” Knuble said. “This might be it.” ... Albertans take note, that was Calgary’s Joe Colborne setting up Edmonton’s Frattin. “We have a bigger college rivalry (North Dakota-Denver) than an Edmonton-Calgary rivalry,” Frattin said.
Tim Connolly picked up his 400th NHL point with his opening goal ... Kessel and John-Michael Liles got battlefield promotions to alternate captains with all the recent injuries ... Cody Franson’s last goal came Feb. 15 for the Predators ... With Kessel’s speed the Leafs should try a few more stretch passes or see if he can out-race a defenceman on a long bomb. Kessel did a great job beating his man to the puck on one such play that created a scoring chance ... Frattin did a little jump for joy as he started down the bench to take congrats for his first regulation NHL goal. It came on his 26th shot and what seemed like 26 posts and crossbars ... That was Liles who fished the puck out for Frattin, who is sending it back to his mother.