Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/29/13
To an Easterner, it’s a mystery why a town in Alberta would be called Fort Saskatchewan. Isn’t Saskatchewan the province next door? In any event, that’s where Joffrey Lupul was born three decades ago, just 10 miles or so down the highway from here. He grew up besotted with the Oilers and, for one season, was part of the oil-drop tribe. So there will be tons of Lupuls at Rexall Place when Edmonton hosts the Leafs Tuesday evening. What J. Lupul doesn’t know yet is whether they’ll be watching him on the ice or from a longer distance view, up in the pressbox. The snake-bit winger has nobody to blame but himself — or maybe the teammate whose shot thwacked off his right ankle during a practice drill last Thursday, sending Lupul to hospital for X-rays that apparently revealed nothing more worrisome than a bone bruise. He’s missed the last two games as a result. “I can’t really tell right now,” Lupul said following practice Monday. “This is the first time I’ve skated at all, done anything. And we’re right off a long flight so it’s not the ideal way to test it. We’ll see again (Tuesday). I’d really like to play. Obviously, I hate missing time. “And this is my hometown. I haven’t had a chance to play here in a couple of years, just because of the way the schedule’s been. I’ll have everyone here, my family, regardless of whether I’m playing or not. But I’d love to be out there.” Coach Randy Carlyle has expressed annoyance over the injury, which might have been averted had Lupul been wearing an ankle guard. Nikolai Kulemin — who comes off injury reserve Tuesday — has been sidelined since blocking a shot in practice on Oct. 4 and losing a piece of bone in his ankle. Kulemin expects to play on this Western road swing. At the other end of extremities, tough guy Frazer McLaren has been nursing a pinkie broken during practice way back at training camp. McLaren was reactivated on Friday. “We’ve lost three guys this year already at practice,” brooded Lupul, as if disbelieving of the triage toll when there’s no opposition in sight. But it’s the eschewed shot-blocking ankle guard that has got up Carlyle’s nose. “I think we’re going to be making it mandatory at practice now,” said Lupul. He’s not a fan of that particular piece of protective equipment, which is selectively used by NHL pros. “Some players do, some players don’t. I will right now while I’m protecting my foot but probably not long-term.” Not in-game anyway. “The puck bounces differently off it. You see mostly defencemen and guys who block a lot of shots wearing them. I can’t really think of any offensive players that really wear them.”
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