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The Globe and Mail

Lupul, Gunnarsson set to play through the pain

After the butt kicking they absorbed in Vancouver, the Toronto Maple Leafs could certainly use all hands on deck.

And it appears they're going to get that for Tuesday's game against the New Jersey Devils.

Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and second leading scorer Joffrey Lupul are both a little beat up at the moment, with Gunnarsson missing three games with an ankle injury and Lupul taking a shot off the ankle against the Canucks.

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Gunnarsson, the team's best defensive defenceman, is at "95 or 96 per cent" in his recovery, according to coach Ron Wilson. He is eligible to come off injured reserve on Tuesday, which explains why Keith Aulie was sent down.

"He's been improving rapidly," Wilson said of Gunnarsson. "I wouldn't play him if I didn't think he could help us. He looked fine in practice today so I expect him to play tomorrow."

Lupul, meanwhile, missed Monday's practice but his injury isn't considered serious.

"He'll go for tomorrow," Wilson said.

It's a good thing, too, given the minutes both play and Toronto's current 1-5-0 slide. Gunnarsson is second on the Leafs with 22:12 a game, while Lupul is second among forwards with 18:43.

Neither have missed much time, continuing a season-long trend where Toronto's top skaters have been healthy almost every night. Combined, the foursome of Phil Kessel, Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Gunnarsson have missed only four games.


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- Jonas Gustavsson gets the start against New Jersey on Tuesday, a team that is red hot with a 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games. Wilson said the decision was in part due to Gustavsson winning the last time he faced the Devils.

- Wilson on dealing with the incessant trade deadline rumours around the team today: "We've talked to the whole group about that. I think most of our guys understand it's business. Burkie's talked individually with a lot of guys about [how] there's rumours. Every day somebody calls your team and says they'd be interested in somebody; that doesn't mean that we reciprocate or say that this player's available."

- Adding to the speculation? The fact there's apparently a scout from the Columbus Blue Jackets at Monday's afternoon game between the Toronto Marlies and Lake Erie Monsters. This after Leafs GM Brian Burke had a meeting with Jackets GM Scott Howson on Sunday in New York.

- Wilson on his team potentially being tired after its West Coast swing: "February's usually the dog days of the season, and it's hard to be energized. That's why we had nothing but just a high tempo kind of skating practice. No standing around. We want to mimic what we're going to do tomorrow - we've got to get our legs going. But every team's in the same situation we are."

Projected lineup

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lombardi - Connolly - Armstrong/Crabb Brown - Steckel - Boyce

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Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Gardiner - Schenn Liles - Franson


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