Lupul-less Maple Leafs ready for Rangers

Joffrey Lupul skates on the MasterCard Centre ice on Sunday after sustaining a blow to the head...

Joffrey Lupul skates on the MasterCard Centre ice on Sunday after sustaining a blow to the head against the Flyers three days earlier. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)

IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul took rapid-fire shots on a young stand-in goalie this morning. Almost every puck went in.

The downfall? The injured Maple Leafs star was on the ice with a coach, the young keeper, and no one else.

After being crunched awkwardly in Thursday's loss to the Flyers, he skated alone, then with teammates for 10 minutes, but won't play tonight and it remains to be seen when he'll play again.

"He is now listed day-to-day. That's basically all I have on him," head coach Randy Carlyle said following his team's optional skate ahead of tonight's home tilt with the New York Rangers.

The loss of Lupul, named the NHL's first star of the week before being bit with yet another injury — he missed a solid chunk with a broken forearm — is a massive hit to the Maple Leafs lineup.

But Carlyle has had options throughout his first full season at the helm in Leafland, and the depth is one of many reasons Toronto remains firmly entrenched in the playoff picture.

While Lupul is not a player easily replaced, the abundance of NHL-ready players at Toronto's fingertips continues to make life rather seamless, while keeping players on their toes.

"Have these guys here and having the ability to change the lineup shows the depth that we have," defenceman John-Michael Liles said, adding the constant influx of players is not viewed as threatening.

"There's always players that are coming up and there's always healthy competition, but ultimately you're all on the same team, you're all working towards the same goal, and that's the big thing."

The Maple Leafs have recently brought up forwards Joe Colborne and Ryan Hamilton and defenceman Jake Gardiner from the Marlies, while scratching players including cold Matt Frattin and toughguy Frazer McLaren on Saturday night.

Tonight, newly acquired defenceman Ryan O'Byrne will make his debut in the blue in white.

While the daily lineup changes can prove frustrating for those negatively affected by the moves, it's the nature of the beast.

"There's always going to be guys coming in and out, whether it be with injuries or whatever the case may be," forward James van Riemsdyk said. "You've just got to go out there and control what you can control."

The shakeups, while seemingly increased in recent weeks, have been rarer than previous teams van Riemsdyk has been a part of, he said.

"He's actually a lot more patient, believe it or not, than other coaches I've played for," he said. "My years in Philly, when things were getting a little flat, the coach would shake up the lines, but I've pretty much played on the same line for the last 30-odd games.

"It's good that he shows that patience."

Although James Reimer did not take part in the optional skate, it's expected he'll be in the crease tonight for the first game in a home-and-home set between the Rangers, who sit four points back of fifth-place Toronto in the Eastern Conference. The teams meet again on Wednesday in Manhattan.

Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur were the other two Maple Leafs not on the ice for the optional skate.

 


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