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Yakupov makes successful return to Sarnia lineup

by Mike G. Morreale
Nail Yakupov appeared comfortable and confident in his return to the ice for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting in three games this weekend.

The Russian right wing, ranked No. 1 according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, finished with one goal, two points and a minus-2 rating in his first bit of game action with the Sting since Dec. 17.

Yakupov, who missed the previous nine games for the Sting, suffered a knee injury in the gold medal game at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary, Alta. He scored his 22nd goal of the season en route to being named the game's second star in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa 67's in Ottawa on Friday.

According to Dave Paul of the The Sarnia Observer, Yakupov looked like his old self for much of the game.

He was held without a point and a minus-2 rating in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Belleville Bulls on Saturday, snapping his eight-game consecutive goal streak. Yakupov, who missed two breakaway attempts in the game, was also stopped on his attempt in the shootout by Belleville rookie goalie Charlie Graham.

He would notch an assist on the decisive goal 10:36 into the second in a 2-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs on Sunday. Yakupov, who will not participate in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday, currently ranks 13th in the OHL with 56 points in 30 games.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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