January 21, 2012
Leafs' Lupul alternate All-Star captain
By Dave Hilson, QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel probably doesn’t have to worry about being picked last at this year’s NHL All-Star game. Probably.
“You would think,” chuckled teammate Joffrey Lupul after it was announced at Toronto’s Saturday morning skate that the forward had been named as an alternate captain for the league’s showcase event.
“We’ll see, I’m not the captain so…(The NHL players association) called me this morning and asked if I would do it and I said, ‘Sure, it would be an honour’ and it’ll be fun and I’ll try to make it as fun as possible for the fans.”
At last year’s all-star game Kessel had to suffer the indignation of being selected last in the mock draft. Of course it didn’t help any that Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin sat with a big grin on his face and snapped an embarrassed Kessel’s picture. But a recurrence of that scene likely will be avoided now that Lupul has been selected to be the alternate captain of Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara at next weekend’s event in Ottawa.
“I would like to try (to pick Kessel first or second) but I’m not the boss. I’m not exactly sure what my job is. Chara can be an intimidating guy too so we’ll probably take his guy first,” Lupul joked. “I want to try and take Phil and Dion (Phaneuf), if we can work that.”
Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson has been named as the other captain.
“Hopefully he picks me or helps to pick me,” said Phaneuf, who was the only Leafs player to be voted to this year’s all-star game which takes place next weekend in Ottawa. “I’m really happy for him. I think it’s great for him to be able to get the recognition he deserves.”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson agreed with Phaneuf.
“It’s a nice little feather in his cap for the moment,” Wilson said. “He has had a great year, been very consistent. But I think the most relieved guy in the room right now will be Phil Kessel. You know, Chara is with the Bruins and they seem to give Phil (a former Bruin) a hard time and Daniel Alfredsson, that’s one of our biggest rivals. I think Phil was worrying they might try to get together and pass him over again. Lupes will prevent that from happening. That our organization gets that kind of recognition is excellent.”
For Lupul, who has resurrected his career here in Toronto after suffering serious back issues and seeing his stock plummet in Anaheim before being traded, it’s a recognition of just how well he has played this season.
“It’s always nice to be recognized,” said Lupul who is will be making his first appearance at the all-star game. “It’s an honour. To even have my name thought of is pretty cool. I have a chance to have some family there at the game and that means a lot to mean and I know it means a lot to them that I’m back playing and playing in the all-star game so it will be a special weekend.”
Lupul, who only played 23 games with the Ducks in the 2009-2010 season because of his back troubles, leads all Leafs with 51 points (20 goals) and sits tied for third in league for total points.
“It’s been a good opportunity for me (playing in Toronto) and I’ve had a lot of fun,” Lupul said. “The year has been great and we’re in a position now where we can have a good second half, much like we did last year, and be a playoff team. That’s what would make it one of the best years (for Lupul). It’s nice to have personal success and get recognized and things like that but again at the end of the season if the team doesn’t have success, it doesn’t look that great on anyone in the dressing room.”
For the Leafs to make it into the playoffs they have to beat teams like Northeast Division rival Montreal, which sits eight points behind ninth-placed Toronto in the Eastern Conference.
Jonas Gustavsson will get the start against what should be a weary Canadiens' team when the two meet at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
The Canadiens are coming off a 5-4 shootout loss on Friday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although Wilson wasn’t saying, look for the Leafs to go with the same lineup that skated in a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.