Pat standing with Belfour

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Mikael Tellqvist would like an opportunity to carry a wave of confidence into the Maple Leafs net after winning a gold medal with Sweden but he knows it might not come soon.

Despite the struggles of Ed Belfour, coach Pat Quinn indicated after practice yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena he will continue to go to his No. 1 goalie.

"(Belfour) is a big part of our game and nobody at the top of the league is there if they don't have solid goaltending," Quinn said. "He has been a backbone for this team. He is going to be a key part of us going forward. He will get there."

But Belfour has not been sharp overall, and it's one reason, of many, the Leafs are on the outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference with time running out.

Quinn did not say specifically who would start in Buffalo tomorrow.

Belfour has 21 wins in 46 games and owns a .891 save percentage and 3.36 goals-against average, neither of which is pretty.

Tellqvist, still floating on air after his Olympic experience though he barely played, has six wins in 14 games with a .906 save percentage and a 2.79 goals-against average.

Why not give Tellqvist the ball for a bit? The alternative to winning is losing more, which is what the Leafs have done in 13 of their past 16 games.

Would they be any worse off?

Belfour has started the past eight games, the longest Tellqvist-free stretch of the season, and has gone 3-5.

"If you go on the way I have been playing, it is every fourth or fifth game, that would make it five in the last 24," Tellqvist said. "There is not much I can do. I have to stay ready -- it's a boring answer, but that's the way it is.

"You always want to play every game, otherwise you would not play hockey. I'm accepting my role this year."

When Tellqvist has performed well, he has not had a chance to build on it. The 26-year-old has not started consecutive games this season.

"You can grow from being around winning and watching what it takes to do it," Quinn said of Tellqvist's time in Turin. "Sure, there are going to be opportunities for Mikael to play. I think he has made a lot of progress."


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