Aubin's the man right now

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

His name doesn't lend itself to fan-friendly chants like "Eddie" or "Telly."

But if Jean-Sebastien Aubin can parlay his National Hockey League goaltending renaissance into a new contract with the Maple Leafs next season, get used to pronouncing his full moniker.

For now, expect him back in net on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres in search of a third consecutive win to sustain Toronto's thin playoff hopes.

"The next few games are big for our team and for my career," Aubin said yesterday. "But if I start the next game, I have to push the (personal) stuff aside and be ready."

Ten days earlier in Pittsburgh, when quizzed about his pro future, the idle 28-year-old said he intended on going back to the Marlies and taking them deep into the AHL playoffs. That would earn him a second look in Toronto during the off-season or garner attention from another NHL team.

But how about now, with Ed Belfour gone for sure, Mikael Tellqvist hitting a bump and junior stars Justin Pogge and Tuukka Rask not expected on the scene until 2007?

"Ask John Ferguson," Aubin said with a laugh, referring to the Leafs general manager.

Ferguson must soon qualify Aubin to keep him from becoming a free agent in 2006-07. But he would be doing so without knowing how the team's overall goaltending blueprint will unfold at training camp.

Tellqvist, the two kids, current Marlies goalies J.F. Racine and Todd Ford, as well as a possible free agent, all could be in the mix.

"We knew when Aubin signed his first deal here a couple of years ago that we were getting a guy who had twice won 20 games in the NHL and had played more than 150 games," Ferguson said. "But with each start he makes, we're getting more information about him."

Ferguson said he and his staff are undecided at this stage about bringing Rask here from Finland to experience camp, adding last year's No. 1 pick is still not signed.

"Pogge (chosen 90th overall in 2004) is signed and will be at camp, where we'll start creating the proper (NHL) environment for him."

For now, it's Aubin's show. Originally a third-round pick of the Penguins in 1995, he was that team's starter for a season and a half. He was gradually shoved out by a combination of poor play and the arrival of much-hyped youngsters Johan Hedberg and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Tellqvist, who has waited years for his shot at No. 1, is trying not to dwell on the Montreal blowouts, where the whole team was at fault.

"I always want to be playing, but I did not come up with my best games," Tellqvist said.

"The next day I try not to think about (not playing well), but it is not always easy to do that."


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