Since returning from a broken hand, Joffrey Lupul has been one of the more consistent Maple Leafs. He’s been generating chances as of late and is being rewarded for it.
With the Maple Leafs top scoring unit of James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak having a difficult game Thursday, Lupul’s line along with Nazem Kadri and Mike Santorelli saw their ice-time increase in the Leafs 5-3 loss to New Jersey.
It’s a sign that Lupul hasn’t shown any rust after missing four weeks of action.
“The first game (back from injury) was difficult but I felt better each game,” Lupul said following Friday’s practice. “I’m pretty much up to speed now.”
Lupul’s line has combined for 12 points in the last two games. In the four games Lupul has played since his return, he has five points. Not bad, considering he had just three points in nine games before that. But that wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
“I felt before I went out I was playing pretty well despite the points not being there. I had a lot of posts and a lot of opportunities that didn’t go in and now they are starting to go in,” Lupul said. “I felt better each game since I came back. I just want to keep pushing forward and keep getting better because I know I can be a guy who adds a different element to our team.”
The element the Leafs could be lacking is limiting the space of the opposition. The Leafs have shown an ability to score this season. But when they aren’t putting pucks in, the results haven’t been there defensively.
The lessons that can be learned from a team like the Devils could be that when the games get tougher to win, you’re only as good as your defence is. The Leafs have shown that ability to clamp down, but it’s still very much a work in progress.
“I think that’s everyone’s goal,” Lupul adds. “Even the teams that are really good offensively. A team like Chicago tries to make a lot of plays with the puck and is really good offensively but they also check pretty tightly coming back into their own zone. I think that’s the goal for us. We’ve made some strides but we’ve had some games where it hasn’t been there but that’s part of the learning process.”
Phil Kessel has taken maintenance days every now and then and in the last two games, he has taken his lumps. Against Dallas, he got hit hard into the boards by Antoine Roussel. When Kessel scored late Thursday, he had an awkward fall but appeared to be no worse for wear. Kessel’s line struggled for much of Thursday’s game. While Kessel’s playing with some bumps and bruises, he insists it’s nothing he can’t handle.
“We had a tough time getting going and getting into that game last night. If you don’t get into the game early it’s tough,” Kessel said of his performance. “I just always play unless it’s a real terrible thing I just keep going and do whatever I can. I love to play the games so I don’t want to miss any.”
Kessel hasn’t missed a Leafs game since making his debut in November of 2009. Saturday’s game will be his 390th consecutive game (not including playoffs).
Komarov Misses Practice
Despite taking the ice with his teammates during Thursday’s morning skate, Komarov did not skate on Friday, putting his availability for Saturday night’s game in further doubt.
Komarov has missed the last three games with a concussion.
Leafs lines at practice