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  • Finally healthy, Lupul thriving with Maple Leafs Print
    Northeast
    Written by Heather Engel   
    Saturday, 11 February 2012 08:11

    Now 28, Joffrey Lupul understands that it takes more than just talent to be an NHL pro. The seventh overall pick in 2002 has learned from his experiences and a once lax off-ice work ethic is stronger than ever.

    Heather EngelThere was no way to know which Joffrey Lupul the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting when they acquired him from the Anaheim Ducks a year ago. After all, this was a promising talent who had missed three days shy of a year recovering from injury and was underwhelming upon his return.

    They aren't wondering any more.

    "At the start of the year, if I said I was going to be up in that top (group in scoring), I probably would have not believed myself," Lupul admitted to Yahoo! Sports. "I'm not going to go looking and chasing guys like Evgeni Malkin and the Sedin brothers. I'm just going to keep playing the same way I have been, and hopefully the points keep coming."

    And they have been.

    Heading into Saturday's tilt against the Canadiens, Lupul sat fifth in NHL scoring with a career-high 58 points. That puts him on pace for 86 points, 33 more than his previous best of 53, set back in 2005-06.

    But, even more impressive is the fact that he's put up those points in 55 games - the exact number the Leafs have played this season.

    "A lot of it is just being healthy," he told the Edmonton Sun. "I went a couple of years without being 100 percent healthy. To be back and to be 100 percent is a big confidence boost for me and I'm getting the opportunity to play a big role on this team."

    It's a remarkable turnaround for Lupul. He had two surgeries to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. That was followed up by an infection and six weeks of intravenous antibiotics. Everything appeared to finally be headed in the right direction as Lupul began to rehab. That is until the infection came back and Lupul was back on antibiotics for another eight weeks.

    "[Y]ou come in just assuming you're going to have a really long career in the NHL and not thinking about anything ever going wrong," Lupul said to TSN.ca. "And then asJoffrey Lupul your career goes and you have an off-year or you have some bad injuries or you're traded or friends of yours are traded, all sorts of things happen.

    "Those are just experiences that you pick up from day to day and year to year that make you just a better player and in the end probably a better person too just experiencing as much as possible."

    Now 28, the seventh overall pick in 2002 has learned from those experiences. He understands that it takes more than just talent to be an NHL pro. A once lax off-ice work ethic is stronger than ever.

    "Now I come to the rink everyday – whether it's a game or practice – with a purpose, to get better at something or stronger in the weight room or take care of my body so eight years from now hopefully I can still be playing," he said. "Back then, something like that would never even cross my mind, it was just living for that particular day and go from there."

    Unlike the last time he went from Anaheim to a Canadian hockey market (Edmonton in 2006), the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native is rejuvenated under the bright - and often scrutinizing - lights of Toronto.

    And he wouldn't have it any other way.

    "This is the center of the hockey universe," he told the Sun. "It's fun. It seems like every game is a big game, no matter who's coming to town, there's always an interesting story line or something is going on. Then when we go on the road, there are a lot of Leafs fans; it's a fun place to play.

    "Every time you come to the rink there's something going on and you're not going to get bored here, that's for sure."

    NOTES

    Skidding through the end of January right into February, the Ottawa Senators finally snapped an ugly seven-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday. It was a much-needed two points for the Sens, who had dropped to eighth in the Eastern Conference during their slide and were perilously close of falling out of a playoff position. ... Eleven months after his season – and potentially his career – came to an abrupt halt, the remarkable comeback of Max Pacioretty continues. The Montreal Canadiens winger scored his first career hat trick against the New York Islanders on Thursday, bringing his season goal total to a team-leading 22, the most he's scored at any level of his hockey career. ... Tim Thomas' Facebook updates have sparked a lot of chatter among media and fans alike. But one place they aren't being discussed is in the Boston Bruins' room. "I don't think I've heard anybody, starting from our owner, to management to coaches and players – I don't think I've heard anybody support his opinions – but I've heard everybody say that we support him as a player and we do" coach Claude Julien told bostonbruins.com. "We have good team chemistry in that dressing room and...I've said this before, we don't mix politics with our hockey team and that continues to happen."... In a season marred by injuries, the Buffalo Sabres gladly welcomed back second-leading scorer Thomas Vanek on Friday night. He proved happy to be back, notching his team-best 20th goal of the season and tossing four shots on goal. "He's a huge presence for us when he's out there. He creates so much and gets a lot of attention," winger Nathan Gerbe told the Buffalo News. "He did a great job."

    Photos by Getty Images

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    Last Updated on Sunday, 12 February 2012 01:40