A reason to smile

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

Vesa Toskala has not had much to smile about in this young NHL season, but he had plenty of reason to be grinning from ear to ear yesterday.

The object of Toskala's upbeat mood was fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, the Formula 1 driver with Ferrari who claimed the F-1 driver's championship on Sunday.

Toskala and Raikkonen are buddies back in Finland. The Maple Leafs goalie actually attended the Hungarian Grand Prix to watch Raikkonen during the summer.

Raikkonen clinched the 2007 championship when he won the Brazilian Grand Prix Sunday, finishing one point ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in what was the tightest race for the title in 21 years.

"I was pretty nervous (Sunday) watching the final five laps," Toskala said yesterday. "What he accomplished was a very big thing for our country."

Should coach Paul Maurice continue alternating his goalies, Toskala likely will get the call tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers. Despite spending most of his career in the western conference with the San Jose Sharks, Toskala is well aware of the Thrashers' big guns.

"Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa are very good players," Toskala said. "You have to be aware whenever they are out on the ice."

Toskala figures there still are two NHL buildings he has never set foot in -- Madison Square Garden in New York and the Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island. The Leafs will be at MSG to face the Rangers Saturday, a tilt Toskala will be in line for if Maurice continues to play his goaltenders every second game.

LOOSE LEAFS

With Darcy Tucker (knee) out of the lineup indefinitely, Maurice said forward Boyd Devereaux likely will return to action tonight. Devereaux, whose wife was scheduled to give birth yesterday, has been out with a sore back ... Alexei Ponikovsky was reunited with Mats Sundin and Jason Blake at practice yesterday, the same line that started the season together ... Sundin said the Leafs must stop sitting back when attempting to protect leads late in games. "We have to step on the gas," Sundin said. "If we are a couple of goals ahead, we must keep going."


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