Pogge plugging away

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Just a 10-minute drive west of the Air Canada Centre, Justin Pogge was at the Ricoh Coliseum yesterday preparing for tonight's game between his Toronto Marlies and the visiting Lake Erie Monsters.

As he turned aside shots at practice, the young Marlies goaltender was impervious to the media circus going over at the ACC, where the Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask was being swarmed by reporters about his impending NHL debut against the Maple Leafs last night.

"I don't really care," Pogge said of Rask's monumental evening.

"He's in Boston now, and I'm happy here."

Fair or not, the respective career paths of Pogge and Rask always will be compared by media and fans alike in Toronto.

One year after selecting Pogge in the third round of the 2004 entry draft, the Leafs plucked Rask 21st overall in '05, one spot ahead of the disappointed Bruins who were hoping to land the young Finn.

One year later Rask was shipped to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft, a move which left general manager John Ferguson facing the question: Did the Leafs deal the wrong goaltending prospect?

While that debate is certain to go on for years, Pogge, 21, makes no apologies for his development.

After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Pogge, like many of his Marlie teammates, is off to a hot start, going 3-1-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average.

"Obviously I want to be up in the NHL, but there is no set date," he said.

"The way I look at it, I want to perform well enough to the point where they can't help but call me up.

"Right now I feel I'm doing pretty good.

"There are things I still have to work on but I think I've played well and haven't allowed a lot of straight-on goals.

"I'm gaining more confidence every game."

Rask and Pogge have faced each other just once, during a Finland-Canada game at the 2006 world junior championship in Vancouver. Pogge's Canadians ended up winning the gold medal while Rask was voted top goalie in the tournament.

Then came The Trade.

And the comparisons.

"Frankly, I don't give a (bleep)," Rask said jokingly when asked about the seemingly eternal link between he and Pogge.

The feeling seems mutual.


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