Joffrey Lupul has been having a stand out season, and Saturday he found out he was named as an assistant captain to Zdeno Chara at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
The 28-year-old sits near the top of League scoring and has set a career high in assists in the process.
“It’s an honor and to even have my name thought of was pretty cool,” said Lupul after the morning skate on Saturday. “They told me to just try and have fun with it and I will try to make it as fun as possible for the fans.”
At the 2011 All-Star game in Raleigh, Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel was selected last. With Lupul in a position of influence, it seems that things won’t shake down as they did a year ago.
“Chara can be an intimidating guy, I think we’ll take his guy first,” joked Lupul. “Obviously I want to try and take Phil and Dion (Phaneuf), if we can work that.”
Lupul has always been known to have a tremendous upside – he was drafted seventh overall in 2002 – but was long plagued by injury trouble. The fact that he is finally 100 percent healthy is an obvious reason for his success this season.
“Definitely I was a step behind last year,” Lupul said. “It was good to get those games in at the end of last year and then having a full off season to just train and feel confident about my body, that was big for me.”
Toronto plays a Montreal squad that is coming off a tough 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Friday night and when the final whistle sounds, will have played their third game in four nights.
“You want to definitely try and jump on the team early,” Lupul said. “They’re going to be tired a little bit but being tired doesn’t mean you can’t play a solid team game. After a loss last night, we expect them to come out and play well but we should have a little more jump.”
It will be the third meeting of the rivals and the Leafs have won twice, but the two squads have not faced off in nearly three months. That span of time has been tumultuous for Les Blue, Blanc et Rouge.
They have fired their coach and traded a cornerstone player. With all the distractions and adversity Montreal has faced, Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf is still weary of the threat they pose.
“The biggest thing for them is they just haven’t gotten results this year,” Phaneuf said. “They’ve got talent in their lineup; they’ve got a lot of speed. We know they are going to come out and expect a big game here. It’s Saturday night and it’s Toronto-Montreal in Toronto, they’re fun games to be a part of.”
Here’s the projected lineup for the Maple Leafs:
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Joey Crabb - David Steckel - Mike Brown
Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson