Eddie's ailing

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Is this the beginning of the Mikael Tellqvist era?

The Swedish goaltender isn't about to make that claim quite yet, continuing to insist that Ed Belfour remains the Maple Leafs No. 1 man.

But the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre might feel differently, judging from the standing ovation it gave Tellqvist after the Leafs' 5-4 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins last night at the Air Canada Centre.

Brad Boyes, Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm each failed to beat Tellqvist in the shootout, allowing Darcy Tucker's goal to stand out as the winner.

"I got lucky a bit with Boyes, but I'll take it," Tellqvist said afterward. "I had watched tape on these guys so I had an idea what they might do.

"It's big because we really needed those two points."

If the Leafs are to continue their recent hot streak, they'll also need Tellqvist to step up, given the fact that Belfour's back woes have flared up again.

"(Tellqvist) will play until Eddie says he is ready again," coach Pat Quinn said.

Asked how long Belfour will be on the shelf, Quinn was non-committal.

"There really is no time line. I was told he was day to day, although I'm not really sure what that means," Quinn said wryly, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Belfour underwent back surgery in the fall of 2004 and has seemed to have the ailment under control for the majority of the 2005-06 season.

The veteran goaltender was between the pipes for the Leafs' 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Friday, then found himself riding the pines in favour of Tellqvist the following night, a 5-1 Toronto victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting.

But Belfour was nowhere to be seen on the Leafs bench last night. The backup goaltender was J-S Aubin, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Marlies earlier in the day.

"We don't know how serious it is," Quinn said. "We all know Eddie's had a cranky back for a good portion of his career. Hopefully it's not too bad."

Tellqvist relishes the opportunity to carry the load in The Eagle's absence.

"I don't know what's wrong with Eddie, but I wish him a speedy return," Tellqvist said. "At the same time I want to show my teammates and my coach that I can help them win.

"I want to be a No. 1 goalie in this league, whether it be three years down the road or, hopefully, this year."


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