Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kuelmin confident his offensive touch will return

Maple Leafs forwards Phil Kessel (left) and Nikolai Kulemin take a knee during training camp at the...

Maple Leafs forwards Phil Kessel (left) and Nikolai Kulemin take a knee during training camp at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, Ont., Jan. 14, 2013. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:01 PM ET

TORONTO - There were times last season when Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin squeezed his stick so hard, his gloves exploded.

Alright, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but there’s no doubt that the 2011-12 campaign was a rough one for the native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, who managed only seven goals and 28 points in 70 games for the Leafs after notching 30 goals the season before.

At times, Leafs fans got on the quiet Russian during the year, though in the off-season the team rewarded the big left-winger with a two-year extension that will pay him $2.6 million this season and $3 million next — in the hopes that the slump was a just fluke. There was speculation that part of the reason for Kulemin’s funk was the death of his good friend Igor Korolev in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash two weeks before the start of training camp.

 


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