Spotlight on Legace

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

For a guy who has spent much of his NHL career riding the pines, Manny Legace felt slightly out of place sitting on the bench Saturday night.

"I didn't know what to do with myself all day. I was walking around the rink kind of lost," Legace said during a phone interview from Detroit yesterday. "It was weird."

Understandable. With Chris Osgood making his season debut after recovering from a groin injury, the Red Wings' 4-2 victory in Chicago marked the first time all season that Legace was not Detroit's starting goaltender.

Of course, if anyone deserved a rare day of rest, it's Legace, who established an NHL record for wins by a goaltender in the month of October with 10. Not bad for someone who many had erroneously considered nothing more than a career backup.

"I didn't get a lot of feedback from people here about (the mark)," he said. "But I got quite a few calls from my buddies in Toronto and Alliston.

"Nothing will ever beat having your name on the Stanley Cup, but it is kind of cool to be part of a record."

In the pre-salary cap era, Legace was not much more than an afterthought in Hockeytown, taking a back seat to big names like Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph.

In 2003, the Toronto native actually was dropped to third string behind both Hasek and Joseph, a pair of high-profile egos who barely spoke to one another.

"At first their lockers were beside one another," Legace said. "Then, one day I walked in and found they had put me between them. I was told I was there to be a buffer (between Joseph and Hasek).

"I said, 'What am I, Jimmy Buffet?' From that day on, the Jimmy Buffet nickname stuck."

In that case, Jimmy, was it an uncomfortable situation?

"No, because I got along with both guys. But there just were too many roosters in the henhouse."

The lockout and subsequent salary cap changed all that. No longer could the Red Wings afford to heave gobs of cash at free-agent goalies, choosing instead to bring Osgood back to Detroit.

Legace figured Osgood, who helped the Wings win a Cup in 1998, would be the starter. But once Ozzie was injured, Legace took over and has made a strong case for keeping the No. 1 job.

Legace, one of the real down to earth good guys in the NHL, should be sad to see the month of October end at midnight tonight. With his buddy Osgood back in the mix, he has no expectations of how many games he'll play from here on in.

"All I know is that I've been told I'm playing tomorrow night (against Chicago) and that's fine by me," he said with a chuckle.

No worries, Jimmy Buffet. If November is anything like your October, you won't be on the bench very much.

DOWN IN FLAMES

For those of us who predicted the Calgary Flames would return to the Stanley Cup final, their slow start is nothing new. Jarome Iginla and Co., were in a similar funk for the first six weeks of the 2003-04 campaign before turning their season around.

What is of concern, however, is the team's inability to score, even with the new rules that promote offence. The Flames have scored only 29 times in 13 games, ranking them 27th in the league.

"It's not for a lack of chances," forward Tony Amonte said. "We're just not hitting the back of the net right now."

At least the Flames can look forward to a solid dose of home cooking in the coming months. Nine of their first 13 games have come on the road.

SWEET SWEDE

Not everyone was caught off-guard by the sizzling start of New York Rangers rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who upped his record to 5-1 after his Broadway Blueshirts downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Saturday.

Personally I'm not surprised at all," said Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who played with Lundqvist for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League last season.

"I knew he was very good, although I didn't think he would adapt this quickly to the NHL. He's a great goaltender and a guy who will be around for some years to come."

AMBASSADOR NEELY

Former Boston Bruins great Cam Neely, who will be in Toronto next weekend for the Hall of Fame celebrations, was named a team ambassador by the Boston Bruins the other day.

Bruins defenceman Jonathan Girard, who broke his neck and shattered his pelvis in a near-fatal July 2003 auto accident in Quebec, has returned to his home north of Montreal.

Boston general manager Mike O'Connell told the Boston Globe that Girard went back, in part, for further medical advice and to ponder his future.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Gary Roberts makes his return to Toronto tonight when the Florida Panthers visit the Maple Leafs ... Hockey Hall of Fame festivities kick off Friday when fans visiting the facility can get autographs from the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning . Tampa Bay then meets the Leafs in the annual Hall of Fame game Saturday. This year's inductees include Neely, Murray Costello and the late Valeri Kharlamov.


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