Telly's golden opportunity

The Toronto Maple Leafs Mikael Tellqvist. (SUN/Craig Robertson)

The Toronto Maple Leafs Mikael Tellqvist. (SUN/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

NEW YORK -- From his crease, Maple Leafs goaltender Mikael Tellqvist could look through the windows of the appropriately named Sky Rink yesterday and see some of the majestic skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan.

It was a picturesque view that really whetted his appetite.

Tellqvist wants to own this town. For one night, anyway.

Tonight, against fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Tellqvist's No. 1 priority, of course, is to help the Leafs gain a victory and keep his team's slim playoff hopes alive.

But he also would love to do it against Lundqvist, his teammate with Sweden, the gold-medal winner in men's hockey at the Turin Olympics.

"You bet I would," Tellqvist, 26, said at the conclusion of the Leafs' afternoon workout. "It would give me the bragging rights for at least the rest of this season."

Having backed up Lundqvist during Sweden's championship run in Italy, Tellqvist admitted that the two goaltenders never have faced each other.

"(Henrik) really made a name for himself last year when he went up against all those NHL stars in the Swedish elite league and played well," Tellqvist said. "It's going to be fun (tonight)."

With Ed Belfour on the shelf with recurring back woes, Tellqvist has assumed the No. 1 job, piecing together a 2-1 record in the past three games. The only loss came Thursday night when he played well in a 3-1 setback to the Buffalo Sabres.

"It was a tough one to swallow in Buffalo," he said. "We worked our butts off.

"But at least I feel I'm getting in a groove. It's a lot easier to play a lot of games in a row because you get a feel for the game."

Since Belfour did not even accompany the team on the trip, Tellqvist is expected to get the call both tonight and tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Mellon Arena.

While the Leafs were completing their practice at Sky Rink, the unique second-storey ice pad along the banks of the Hudson River, Lundqvist was at the Rangers practice facility 30 kilometres to the north.

For his part, Lundqvist had no idea that Tellqvist was getting such a vital audition for the Leafs.

"That's good to hear," Lundqvist, 24, said. "He's a good goaltender and he deserves his shot there.

"I got to know him on the national team. We played together at the World Cup, world championship and Olympics. He's a really great guy."

When Lundqvist first entered the Swedish elite league as a wide-eyed kid of 18, he immediately was struck by Tellqvist's talents.

"(Mikael) probably was the top goaltender in Sweden when I started to play," he said. "He was really good."

Asked what the difference is between the two, Lundqvist replied, "He's more of a standup goalie."

Not only will Tellqvist have to stand up tonight, he'll have to stand out if the Leafs hope to defeat Lundqvist's Rangers.


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