TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul is back on the job, punching his time card for the first line.
And a hot Lupul is good news for the Maple Leafs’ oft-criticized scoring balance as they reached the 40-point mark on Tuesday night in search of the right playoff equation.
Re-united with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, with whom he produced most of his 67 points in 66 games last season, Lupul scored twice in the third to spark the weary Leafs to a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Lupul’s return to prominence came at the expense of James van Riemsdyk, who played well early in Lupul’s absence with a broken arm, but is now scoreless in eight games and spent a chunk of Monday’s third period in Boston on the bench for indifferent play.
After the sluggish first frame, coach Randy Carlyle began the rotation, taking Lupul off another effective line with leading scorer Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. Van Riemsdyk was stopped by Markstrom on a partial break in the second, joined Mikhail Grabovski and Matt Frattin, the next line Carlyle has to re-kindkle.