Kessel, Lupul goal funk sure not to last
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs Joffrey Lupul celebrates after scoring with teammate Phil Kessel during the NHL All-Star hockey game in Ottawa Jan. 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
Every time it seems Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are losing steam, they get back to being coal stokers and goal scorers.
So no one in the MasterCard Centre engine room was fretting much on Thursday when the latest numbers were tallied: Kessel with two goals and one assist the past 10 games, Lupul one goal and four helpers.
You don’t hang out with the NHL’s top 10 scorers all season by staying in those funks very long.
Saturday’s game in Ottawa would be the perfect time to get hot again, a chance for the Leafs to catch Ottawa with a regulation win, depending on Friday night’s out-of-town scoreboard. But Ottawa has frustrated the Leaf snipers a few times this season.
"We thought our line played really well in Pittsburgh,” said Tyler Bozak, the centre for the duo. “We could have had four or five goals and we had one called back. It’s nothing to worry about, we’re still getting our chances, they’re just not going in right now. It’s only a matter of time.”
But defenceman Luke Schenn said the whole Leaf line can expect an already tight-checking reception to be squeezed harder in the final 31 games.
“You saw it the past two games against the Malkin line,” Schenn said. “(An extended slump) hasn’t happened to them all year and even if it does, other teams will have matched them with their top lines and defence pairings.”
The Leafs have 156 goals, with Lupul and Kessel ganging up for 103 points.
“It has been going Phil’s way a lot this year,” Bozak said of his cloe friend’s chase of milestones such as 40 goals. “There will be slumps now and again, but I think both have been playing great.”
Kessel, Lupul and Dion Phaneuf were all excused from an off-ice workout on Thursday because they’d been at last weekend’s all-star game. The Leafs play eight times in 15 nights starting Saturday, so a day away from the ice was prescribed.
One Leaf anxious to get back in action is goaltender James Reimer, but that will depend on coach Ron Wilson. Reimer was both good and lucky in a 25-save shutout Wednesday, his first win in a month. Reimer lost the last game against the Sens, 3-2, while Jonas Gustavsson had played exceptional up to the last few minutes of an overtime loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Coach Ron Wilson didn’t want to talk to the media on Thursday and Reimer said neither goalie had been informed about Saturday’s assignment.