TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul had no symptoms of the dreaded injury in the immediate aftermath of a bone-crunching hit from a pair of Flyers, but the Leafs later learned that their all-star left winger did indeed have a concussion.
"The first problem was that everybody was wanting to claim it was that or it was that and the first couple days he did not have concussion-type symptoms, but that seemed to develop after the first two days," Randy Carlyle said following practice on Friday, his team sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference ahead of a Saturday matchup with Montreal. "He had vision issues, he'd lost some peripheral vision and that was the first thing we were trying to deal with. After that those got corrected and then we thought we were clear of it then concussion-type symptoms occurred so I guess you could say that he had a concussion."
Lupul joined his teammates for the first time at practice on Friday - he has not been cleared yet for contact - eight days after he was sandwiched by a pair of head shots from Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall, wobbling to the dressing room in an eventual loss to the Flyers.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said the upbeat 29-year-old in his first comments since the injury. "It truly is day-to-day. It's not like an arm injury where you can say 'It felt good today I'm good to go tomorrow', it's wake up tomorrow and see how I feel and go from there."
Having endured at least two prior concussions, Lupul is wisely treating this recovery process with care. "You just push yourself a little harder each day," he explained of the delicate process, "on the ice and in the weight room, and you see how your body reacts and if something doesn't react normally or you have symptoms other than you would usually feel after a hard practice and a hard workout then you back off and you tone it down a little bit. That's what I've been doing."
Lupul was able to skate briefly at a Sunday optional practice - he remained for about 10 minutes - three days after the injury first occurred and the aforementioned vision issues had subsided, taking to the ice yet again on Monday for his team's morning skate. The following day he remained off the ice, however, feeling not quite himself.
"It wasn't a huge concern," Lupul said of the minor setback earlier this week, "but I wasn't feeling 100 per cent. That's the goal here is to get back to 100 per cent. We took two days and rested and started slow again. I biked the one day and then I skated with two or three other guys [Thursday] and then practiced with the team today with no contact. We'll see where we go from here."
Scorching before the injury occurred, Lupul had totaled eight goals and 14 points in seven games. He had just returned from a 25-game absence, sidelined for eight weeks with a fractured right forearm.
While his talents and on-ice leadership have been unquestionably missed, the Leafs have nonetheless managed quite well in his absence, now at 16-11-3 on the year, having picked up at least a point in the past three without him.
"Being hurt is always frustrating, no matter how you're playing or how the team's playing." said Lupul, forced to miss 44 of the past 54 games due to an unfortunate array of injuries. "The only good thing is right now with the team getting points in all three of the games I've missed we're in a spot where something drastic would have to happen for us not to make the playoffs, so again that gives me something else to look for rather than say 'I've got to be out there Saturday against Montreal'. I'm really looking to just get myself 100 per cent. This isn't the time or the type of injury that you want to rush something and then put yourself and the team at risk."
As with the nature of such an unpredictable injury, Lupul could not put a timeline on his return, but stressed that such a return would only arise when all was right.
"I'm not going to put myself in a situation where I'm jeopardizing my life after hockey," he said. "I know what's smart and again, if you go out there and play when you're 80 per cent I'm not of use to the team really. It's something I want to get 100 per cent and come back and not [be] afraid of contact or what might happen if I get hit or put myself in a bad situation, I just want to be ready to come back 100 per cent and help the team going forward into playoffs."