Eddie steady since Saturday snub

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

Perhaps it was the wakeup call Ed Belfour needed.

Foregoing any subtlety, Maple Leafs head coach Pat Quinn hinted broadly following a loss to Buffalo last week that his No. 1 goaltender might be seeing a decline in his workload.

Quinn followed that up two nights later by giving Mikael Tellqvist a rare Saturday start against the Montreal Canadiens.

Belfour hasn't been perfect since then but he has been more like the Belfour Maple Leafs fans remember from the pre-lockout days.

Few would argue that were it not for Belfour last night, a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils easily could have gone the other way.

Belfour stopped 36 of 38 shots, with both goals coming in a 35-second span in the third period that made it a one-goal game.

Belfour was at his best in the second period, stopping Viktor Kozlov on a penalty shot and a few minutes later stopping Erik Rasmussen on a breakaway.

He was asked afterwards if he is at all worried that a heavy workload, with him in his 41st year, might not be the ideal situation for him.

"I don't worry about that," Belfour said. "My whole career I'm used to playing a lot of games and most times the more I play the better I play so I don't have any worries."

He certainly has made a believer of Quinn this week.

Belfour has played in four consecutive games since the Saturday night sitdown and except for a mediocre performance on Friday in Washington, when most of his teammates looked less than mediocre, he has responded just the way his coach must have been hoping.

"I felt the Florida game (for Belfour) was a good step," Quinn said, referring to the Leafs' 4-2 win last Monday in which Belfour looked like the Steady Eddie of old. "I liked the way he played there. He was in good control."

A night later in Tampa, Belfour again had a strong game helping the Leafs to a point in a shootout loss.

"That was the game for me that sealed it, that outside of some sort of physical problem I was going to run him out there for the next few games. Basically I was saying 'Here's the ball, let's go,' " Quinn said.

Based on last night's play, that ball still is solidly in Belfour's grasp.


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