Former Tiger Joffrey Lupul can’t wait to get going again.
The Maple Leafs winger skated Tuesday for the first time since separating his shoulder March 6 in a game against the Boston Bruins.
“I’m 100 per cent. I’ve had a full summer of training. I’ll be ready to go,” said Lupul, moments after a half-hour skate at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke under the eye of strength and conditioning coach Anthony Belza.
“It’s been too long of a summer,” Lupul added. “Obviously, the way things ended for our team, struggling down the stretch last year, and myself getting injured and missing the last 16 games.
“It’s been a long break, and I can’t wait to get back and play. It should be an exciting year.”
Lupul hadn’t missed a game all year and was second on the team in scoring with 67 points — 25 goals and a team-leading 42 assists — when he got hurt. Most of the assists came from playing left wing on the top line with Phil Kessel.
At the time of the injury, the Leafs were in the midst of their free-fall, but the season had not been lost. The Leafs were just five points out of a playoff spot and Randy Carlyle had just come in three days earlier to take over as coach from Ron Wilson.
Lupul and Carlyle had a history in Anaheim. As coach of the Ducks, Carlyle wasn’t convinced Lupul could play left wing. Lupul fell down the depth chart and was ultimately dealt to the Leafs.
“It was a little disappointing to get hurt right when he got here because I would have liked to show him the way I was playing,” said Lupul, adding their differences have been ironed out. “It’s definitely behind us. It’s a new city and a new situation for both of us. We talked about it right when he got here. Basically he said he needs me to keep playing the way I was when Ron (Wilson) was here.
“Coaches come and go and players come and go. You’ve got to be a professional and be ready to work for your teammates and the organization. The coach and the player have to be ready to work together. We discussed this.”
Training camp is expected to open after the current collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. It’s doubtful the players will strike, but there is concern the league will lock out the players if a new deal is not reached by then. The Leafs’ first pre-season game is Sept. 24, against Ottawa, at the Air Canada Centre.
Lupul was on pace to a career year prior to the injury. He needed three goals to match the 28 he scored in 2005-06. His 42 assists and 67 points were career bests.
“It’s a new training camp, a fresh start for everyone,” said Lupul. “I know nothing is going to be handed to me just on how things went last year. I’m ready to come into camp and prove myself and play hard and prove it wasn’t a fluke.”
One big difference this year is the presence of James van Riemsdyk, a 6-foot-3 winger acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers at the cost of defenceman Luke Schenn. Van Riemsdyk is expected to get an audition at centre between Lupul and Kessel.
“He’s a big guy, I’ve played against him a little bit,” said Lupul. “I’ve seen some of the potential he has in playoffs, a big body who can really skate and take over a game.
“This will be great for him. I think he’s had some injuries and got bumped down the depth chart in Philadelphia a little bit. Fresh start, new city, and it appears he’ll be getting a pretty good opportunity at camp. We need him to be a good player for us.”