Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
It appears Joffrey Lupul is set to return just in time for the Toronto Maple Leafs considering the team will be without Dion Phaneuf during a difficult set of back-to-back games.
Lupul has missed the past seven games with a groin injury, and his return will help soften the blow of losing Phaneuf to a two-game suspension. Unfortunately, the left-winger won’t have a chance to ease back into action given the Maple Leafs will host the Los Angeles Kings and then head on the road to face the St. Louis Blues a night later.
In 22 games this season Lupul has recorded eight goals and 15 points playing the majority of the time on Toronto’s second-line. The Maple Leafs have depended on the 6-foot-1 forward to lead the team’s secondary scoring behind Phil Kessel’s line, and it’s become a role he’s found consistent success with.
There’s no question Toronto is a better team with Lupul in the lineup given the scoring depth he provides the team. His ability to take pressure off of Kessel or James van Riemsdyk to produce is an underrated asset as teams can’t take the Maple Leafs’ second-line lightly with Lupul’s game-breaking scoring talent. Without Lupul in the lineup, the opposition can put the majority of their focus on Toronto’s top-line which is what has seen the Maple Leafs struggle without him as they lost five of the seven games he was injured.
With Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland still out with injuries, Toronto is hoping Lupul’s return will be the start of the team finally regaining its health. Facing the Kings and the Blues without Bozak, Bolland and Phaneuf will be difficult to overcome, but Lupul could provide a spark needed for the team to find success.
Unfortunately for Lupul, he’s earned a reputation over the years as an injury-prone player. He’s already missed nine games this season and he only played in 16 games a year ago. He also missed 16 games in his first-full year in Toronto, the 2011-12 season, and was out a significant amount of time the two years before he was traded to the Maple Leafs.
Lupul is too good of a player to continue to receive such bad luck with injuries, and although Toronto is hoping the rest of their injured players can return soon, they are also hoping Lupul’s battle with the injury bug has finally come to an end.