It’d been nearly a year since Joffrey Lupul skated on the ice in an Anaheim Ducks uniform.
On December 8, 2009 Lupul suffered a herniated disc in a game against the Dallas Stars. Although the normal recovery time for this injury is one to six months, Lupul was out for an extended period of time after suffering from reoccurring blood infections following his surgery.
However, Lupul, fondly referred to by his teammates as “Loops”, happily did not quite hit his yearlong absence mark.
“It was enjoyable just being back around the guys,” Lupul claimed.
He took to the ice on Sunday in a matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes. He had been cleared to play earlier in the day by the Ducks medical staff, was added to the active roster and as a result, Dan Sexton was sent to the Syracuse Crunch, the Ducks’ AHL affiliate.
Not only was Lupul able to play in the game, but he also got a starting nod from coach Randy Carlyle. Fans gave a joyous ovation when his name was announced over the Honda Center sound system. Would an excited Lupul and a re-energized crowd be the spark the Ducks need to end their four-game home stand on a high note?
The Coyotes got a jump on goaltender Jonas Hiller and the Ducks when Taylor Pyatt got one through the five-hole of Hiller, giving the Coyotes a 1-0 lead a little over halfway through the first period.
The second period did not get any better for the Ducks as they took four minor penalties within the 20 minutes. Phoenix was able to capitalize on a power play opportunity soon after time expired on a five-on-three opportunity, when Shane Doan found the net.
The final twenty minutes began with four-on four hockey and the Coyotes up 2-0 on the Ducks. With approximately three minutes left in the game, the crowd roared as the jumbotron read “Make Some Noise”, but within a matter of seconds, Lee Stempniak sealed the game and the Coyotes went on to win it 3-0.
“It seemed like the frustration level got to us and we couldn’t execute,” Carlyle said. “It seemed like everywhere we turned, there was a white sweater tonight.”
In his first game, Lupul had 14:30 of ice time spread amongst 21 shifts and got three shots on goal.
“Once the game got going, it was just hockey again,” Lupul stated. “If I had any nerves, they were gone by the first or second shift.”
The Ducks will be at the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday for the first of a two-game road trip.