EDMONTON – It is going to take a lot to keep Joffrey Lupul out of this one. The Toronto Maple Leafs winger purchased 20 tickets for Tuesday’s game against his hometown Edmonton Oilers and indicated that it might provide him with the extra boost he needs to return from a bruised foot.
"I want to get back in there," Lupul said after the morning skate.
Officially, he was considered a game-time decision depending on how he felt after the warm-up at Rexall Place. Lupul missed the team’s last two games after taking a shot off the foot during practice last Thursday – something that has prompted coach Randy Carlyle to make ankle guards mandatory for all skates moving forward.
Meantime, the Oilers were looking forward to having centre Sam Gagner on the ice for the first time this regular season. He suffered a broken jaw in exhibition play after taking a vicious high stick from Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian and will play with a protective shield.
Gagner was excited to be thrown directly onto the struggling team’s top line between Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle.
"It’s a nice feeling to come back and know that I still have a role on this team," he said. "But you have to prove yourself every night regardless. That’s my job."
It’s clear that he is still a little bitter about the play that resulted in his injury – one that got Kassian suspended for five games. What angered him most was the suggestion from the Canucks forward that it was a "hockey play."
"I saw his interview after and it’s obvious he was not happy that I was hurt," said Gagner. "It’s in the past now and I think the biggest thing for me was trying to focus on the recovery as opposed to him."
The Leafs appeared set to start James Reimer in goal for a second straight game on Tuesday while Edmonton was set to counter with Richard Bachman.
And veteran defenceman John-Michael Liles will have to wait before making his return to the Toronto lineup. He was called up from the American Hockey League on Monday, but Carlyle said he wasn’t going to make any changes on the blue-line.
Eight of the Oilers last nine games have been on the road … Toronto is in the midst of its worst road stretch with six of the next seven away from Air Canada Centre … Edmonton currently has six players on injured reserve, including Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth … Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and David Bolland are all riding three-game point streaks for the Leafs … Toronto has won four of its last five visits to Rexall Place … The average age of the Leafs lineup (27.0) is slightly younger than the Oilers (27.2) … Rookie centre Mark Arcobello has 10 assists in 13 games for Edmonton … Nail Yakupov, who was benched earlier this season, scored his first goal in Los Angeles on Sunday night … Leafs captain and Edmonton native Dion Phaneuf has 27 points in 39 career games against the Oilers … The Oilers are 1-5-2 when scoring first … Edmonton has the league’s 29th-ranked penalty kill while Toronto owns the sixth best … Toronto beat the Oilers 6-5 in overtime on Oct. 12.
"I had a steak last night. It takes me a little longer to eat it, but I’m able to get everything down, which is nice." – Gagner on what he’s been able to eat while recovering from a broken jaw.
"(We need) to tweak the way we play and be much more worried about the two points at the end of the night than the two points in our individual columns. And it’s getting there. Our guys, I believe, are all in on this." – Oilers coach Dallas Eakins on the message to his young players.
"He’s a guy that enjoys the spotlight, he enjoys talking to you people and he backs up what he says. You’ve got to love that in a player because he wants more. That’s what separates good players from great players because they can continually grow into a larger role." – Leafs coach Randy Carlyle on Nazem Kadri, who is filling in for Tyler Bozak on the team’s top line.