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No-brainer for Leafs' Lupul

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TORONTO -- Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has seen several incarnations of forward Joffrey Lupul over the years.

There was Lupul's promising 53-point sophomore season for Carlyle's Anaheim Ducks in 2005-'06. There was an injury-shortened 2009-10 campaign and a frustration-loaded return the following season.

And then there is the present-day Lupul, his career rejuvenated after a 2011 trade to Toronto that has seen him blossom into a top-line left-winger.

"I think Loops has shown a tremendous amount of leadership, a lot of courage and a lot of grit and determination to get where he is," Carlyle said Monday after the team's morning skate at Air Canada Centre.

The Maple Leafs rewarded Lupul a day earlier, signing the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native to a US$26.25-million, five-year contract extension. He averaged just over a point a game last season, recording 25 goals and a career-high 42 assists and 67 points in 66 games.

Lupul, 29, has thrived since getting the expanded role he craved on Toronto's top line. Lupul and linemates Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak will be counted on to provide offensive punch for a team coming off a 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.

 

Suter has Nashville game circled

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild schedule was released 10 days ago and Ryan Suter immediately looked to see when he would play the Nashville Predators.

"I was like, 'Oh, man. Right away,' " said the new Wild defenceman. "There will be a lot of emotions for that game. I'm still close with a lot of guys on Nashville."

Before this season, Suter had known one coach -- Barry Trotz -- and one general manager -- David Poile -- his entire NHL career. Whenever he looked to his right, there was the comfort of seeing defensive partner Shea Weber.

But now, for the first time since signing a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild, Suter will be going up against the franchise that drafted him seventh overall in 2003. He still catches himself referring to "them" as "we."

"I'm looking forward to beating them, hopefully," Suter said.

 

Record TV numbers for NHL's return

TORONTO -- CBC is touting the long-awaited return of Hockey Night in Canada -- and its Saturday night viewers.

The public broadcaster says it drew record numbers for the first NHL broadcast of the season Jan. 19.

CBC says the battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens drew a record average audience of 3.3 million viewers.

Citing ratings data from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, CBC bills that showdown as the most-watched regular season Prime East game ever on the network.

And it says an afternoon game featuring the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets drew an average audience of 1.49 million viewers, breaking another record for a Saturday afternoon game.

Meanwhile, nearly 1.47 million viewers took in the Anaheim Ducks/Vancouver Canucks match-up at 9 p.m.

 

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 C2

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