Maple Leafs' Lupul rediscovers scoring touch in Toronto Staff

4/4/2011 10:09:54 PM

While he's done as much as anyone trying to push the Maple Leafs into the playoffs, it's safe to say that the best should still be to come for Joffrey Lupul.

Acquired just prior to the NHL's trade deadline, the winger seems to have rediscovered the scoring touch that made him such a highly touted young player when he came into the league.

"It's been so much fun just to be back and playing again, getting an opportunity, and the team's been playing really well," Lupul said. "I've fit in pretty well with the guys. I've enjoyed every minute I've been here."

Originally a first round pick (seventh overall) by the Ducks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Lupul began to make his mark three seasons later. In his following four seasons (beginning in 2005-06), he had 20 or more goals each season, including a career-high 28 with the Ducks in 2006.

But injuries have threatened to derail his career. He has missed a full calendar year of hockey, needing two back surgeries to fix a herniated disc - the second surgery incurring a blood infection.

Usually playing at 206 pounds, Lupul dropped to a low of 170.

"I was supposed to be out eight weeks, and then eight weeks turned into a year somehow," he said.  "It was frustrating. It seemed that anything that could go wrong did go wrong."

Finally healthy, and getting a chance to prove what he can do, Lupul has eight goals and eight assists in 25 games since joining the Leafs, including four goals and three assists in his last six, when games have become must-wins.

He's also benefited by getting a chance to play with Toronto's other top offensive threat, Phil Kessel.

"Playing with Phil, the key is, you want to get him the puck as much as you can," he said. "Whether it's win a battle in the corner and get him the puck, or make a pass in the neutral zone. You know he's out there and he has game breaking capabilities."

Kessel appreciates the work that Lupul brings to their team.

"He's a gritty hockey player. He has great hands, great skill, but he works extremely hard out there and digs a lot of pucks out for our line," he said.

And whether they sneak into the playoffs this year or not, Lupul intends to be even better for the club next season.

"I want to make sure that what happens right now is not a fluke, for myself and for the team," he said. "I want to have a good offseason and come back next year and be ready to carry on this last 25 games."