Backup battle begins

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Poor Mikael Tellqvist can be excused if he can't get that damned U2 hit Vertigo out of his mind.

The popular tune blares through the Bell Centre P.A. system whenever the host Montreal Canadiens score a goal.

And in one 48-hour span last March, Tellqvist heard that song 11 times while fishing puck after puck out of the Maple Leafs net.

BAD MEMORY

With incumbent Ed Belfour on the shelf, Tellqvist and the Leafs were humiliated by a cumulative 11-3 score in back-to-back losses to the Habs, virtually dropping Toronto out of playoff contention.

With Tellqivist understandably shellshocked, in stepped journeyman Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who backstopped the Leafs to a 9-0-2 run that almost allowed them to squeeze into the post-season.

Having both received one-way contracts worth just over $500,000 since then, Tellqvist and Aubin now find themselves battling for the backup job behind 2004 NHL rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. Whichever man comes out on the short end could find himself traded.

Tellqvist does not feel he should be judged on his wobbly Montreal performances. Yet that is the memory evoked in the minds of many fans whenever his name is mentioned.

"I didn't have my best games in Montreal,"he said. "I agree with that. The season is going to go up and down.

"That's the way it is. Then Aubin came in and played really well. When you are trying to make the playoffs and a guy is playing well after a goalie change, you do whatever to win.

"Those games were bad. But I don't think we lost the season there. In January we went something like 2-for-16."

Tellqvist is no stranger to the underdog role, which many assume he occupies in his battle with Aubin.

"It's my sixth camp and it's been like that every year," he said. "(But) I was so happy when they picked up my qualifying offer. It's my first one-way contract, which is awesome."

As for the prospect of being dealt, he just shrugged.

"The media has speculated about it but John (Ferguson) hasn't really talked to us about what is going on,"Tellqvist said.

"I can just do my best in camp. I know that's a boring answer but that's the way it is. Will they trade the best guy or the worst?Or will they send one down and hope he clears waivers. It's all speculation."

Coach Paul Maurice has a simple explanation of which goaltender will win the backup role in the end.

"Whichever one stops the most pucks,"he said.


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