The Toronto Maple Leafs' return to health didn’t last long.
Not only did the Leafs lose ugly on Monday night in a 6-0 blowout against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they also lost winger Joffrey Lupul for at least the next week with a groin injury.
Lupul pulled himself from the game late in the second period and didn’t return. Leafs coach Randy Carlyle didn’t provide an exact time frame for the injury but doesn’t expect him back any time soon.
Lupul did not travel with the team Tuesday afternoon to Pittsburgh.
“The diagnosis is he’s got a Grade 2 groin strain,” Carlyle explained. “I don’t know what that means.”
Lupul is the second NHLer to suffer a Grade 2 groin strain – which typically involves the partial tearing of muscle fibers – in the last month. Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick is out for what’s expected to be about six weeks with the same injury, although groin issues tend to be tougher to recover from for goaltenders.
Most of the information available online on the injury puts the recovery at between one and two months, which would mean Lupul misses at least 15 games, including a stretch in early December that will likely be Toronto’s toughest all season.
But with an MRI still pending, all Carlyle was willing to rule him out for was this week’s three road games in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Montreal.
“It would take a miracle for him to be available for the weekend,” Carlyle said.
Lupul’s injury history has been well documented. He hasn’t played a full season since 2008-09, with a series of ailments keeping him out of 137 of the 318 games (43 per cent) in the last five seasons.
Most of them have been freak occurrences, including a broken forearm last year when he was hit by a Dion Phaneuf slap shot in front of the net.
His absence is especially painful given how anemic the Leafs offence has been of late. Toronto has only 16 goals in its last 10 games and is producing only 1.63 even strength goals per game this season, a drop of 28 per cent from a year ago.
Like many of his teammates, Lupul has been cold of late, producing only four points in those 10 games, but he has been one of the few Leafs consistently producing shots on goal.
If his injury is as serious as is expected, he will become the fifth of Toronto’s top nine forwards to miss 10-plus games in the season’s first 32 games, joining Dave Bolland (ankle), Nikolai Kulemin (ankle), Tyler Bozak (hamstring) and David Clarkson (suspension).
“It’s one of those things,” Carlyle said. “You don’t expect you’re going to have personnel gone from your lineup at the rate we’re having. And key people missing. It’s another opportunity for someone to step in and fill that role.”