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Lupul ready to return to skidding Maple Leafs

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Jonas Siegel
3/15/2013 4:42:51 PM
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TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul says he's ready to return to the Leafs.
 
On the shelf with a fractured right forearm since the third game of the season the 29-year-old declared himself fit to return against the Jets on Saturday as his team looks to snap a season-long, four-game winless skid.
 
"It's a huge game against Winnipeg," said Lupul, following his third practice with the team at MasterCard Centre on Friday. "The team's looking forward to it and I want to be out there."
 
Struck with a Dion Phaneuf point shot during an eventual 5-2 victory against Pittsburgh on January 23, Lupul has missed the past 25 games with the injury, also sidelined the final 16 games of last season with an unrelated shoulder issue.
 
Joining a line with Nazem Kadri and Nik Kulemin at practice Friday, Lupul said he felt strong enough to return. "It's probably not 100 per cent," he conceded. "It's not like it was before it was broken, but it's at a point where the doctor think it's safe to play.
 
"I've been shooting and practicing for probably a week now so the next test is to go out for a game. They've asked me what I felt and I said I felt confident that it's strong enough and so do they. I'm not going to think about it at all."
 
Winless in their past four and recently searching for more consistent sources of offence - two goals or fewer in three of the four defeats - the presence of the All-Star left winger will be welcomed wholeheartedly.
 
"Well, he better score a hundred goals," Randy Carlyle chuckled when asked the expectation of Lupul. "We know when a player's missed an extended period of time it's not going to be easy to jump right back in and expect him to have a three goal night. Be himself, be Joffrey Lupul. Be a good teammate, work hard and play the system and the other stuff will take care of itself."
 
"There's obviously going to be a little bit of rust and things like that," Lupul added, "but I'm definitely looking to go in and make an impact. Hopefully the feeling out period is not too long. I don't expect it to be."
 
Lupul had a career year with 67 points alongside Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak last season, but will not - at least immediately - play alongside the pair, who've seen decent success with 23-year-old James van Riemsdyk (14 goals) in the fold. Instead, as Carlyle looks more balance in his attack, Lupul will run shotgun initially with Kadri and Kulemin.

"I've had two months to watch him play and watch him improve day in and day out," Lupul noted of Kadri, who sits second on the team with 25 points. "He's still I think just scratching the surface of how good he can be."
 
To make room for Lupul under the 23-man roster limit, the Leafs dealt Dave Steckel to Anaheim early on Friday afternoon, receiving American winger Ryan Lasch and a seventh round pick in the 2014 draft.

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