In the 16 months since the Flyers traded Joffrey Lupul back to Anaheim - in Lupul's second career trade that involved Chris Pronger - the former Flyers fan favorite has played just 23 games for the Ducks.

Not by choice.

It has been 10 months since a routine back surgery to repair a herniated disk changed Lupul's life. Shortly after his surgery, Lupul, 27, came down with a rare and unnamed blood infection that has kept him off the ice since last December.

"I never felt sick or anything like that," Lupul said in a phone interview. "But they could tell from my levels, my white blood cell count, and some obscurities that I had an infection."

The infection rendered Lupul powerless at times, zapping him of all his energy to even get out of bed some days. He underwent intensive therapy and medication, which included a semipermanent IV line in his arm for 6 weeks.

"I wasn't allowed to do much," Lupul said. "With that pick in your arm, since it's closely connected to your heart, you can't mess around."

In June, after nearly 6 months without any physical activity, Lupul finally was cleared to return to strength training. He thought he had the infection beat.

"I started experiencing severe back pain working out, but I thought it was just that my herniated disk had not fully healed in that time," Lupul explained. "I went back to the doctor and the first thing he did was a blood test. They knew right away that the infection had returned."

Lupul said the infection was stirred up again by his increased circulation while working out. Now, it has been almost 3 weeks since Lupul started a new medication and the doctors can tell that he's made a marked improvement.

He finally returned to the ice for the first time this week, skating by himself at the Ducks' practice facility.

"It's been 2 or 3 weeks now since I started a new antibiotic and the doctors said it flipped a switch in me," Lupul said. "I think I'm on the right track."

The Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, native, who racked up 96 points in 135 career games with the Flyers, said the infection has given him a new outlook on his career and life. At one point, Lupul questioned whether he would ever fully recover.

"I'm really just excited," Lupul said. "I'm only 27 years old, I think when you're young, you take your career for granted. You just expect that you will have a long and successful career. Mine was definitely in jeopardy and I just look at this as a second opportunity.

"I've been off the ice for over 10 months, it makes you realize how much you miss hockey and miss your teammates. Everything feels better now and I think I'm on the right track."

Lupul, who lived in the Old City section of Philly and established a close bond with Flyers teammates Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall and Scott Hartnell, said he still keeps in contact with his old mates. He said he's been wearing his Phillies hat around Orange County, in Southern California.

The Flyers dealt Upshall at the trade deadline in 2009 for Dan Carcillo, and Lupul was moved a few months later with Luca Sbisa and two first-round picks for Pronger and Ryan Dingle. Lupul is one of the few players in NHL history to have been traded for the same player in two different trades. He played three full seasons in the Anaheim organization before the Ducks traded him to Edmonton for Pronger in 2006.

Anaheim signed him to a 4-year, $17 million deal shortly after reacquiring him from the Flyers.

While it would have been nice to visit with his old friends at the Wells Fargo Center tonight, Lupul doesn't mind staying back in Southern California. His goal is to be back in the lineup when the Flyers take on the Ducks in Anaheim on New Year's Eve.

"I have a one-track mind, and that's to get back to 100 percent," Lupul said. "I think I'm on a pretty good schedule right now. I still need to be cleared by the doctors, and I know I'd like to be back sooner than they'll let me."

Slap shots

Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan will play in just his second career game in Philadelphia tonight. Former Flyer defenseman Danny Syvret was recalled by the Ducks on Tuesday from AHL Syracuse and played last night at Columbus . . . Peter Laviolette tinkered with the Flyers' power-play units yesterday at practice, moving Mike Richards off the top unit to leave Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Jeff Carter as the forwards with Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger at the point.

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