Toskala finally rolling

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Vesa Toskala finally is in a groove, flashing the type of play general manager John Ferguson was hoping for when he acquired the acrobatic Finn over the summer.

Securely digging his claws into the Leafs' starters job, Toskala is 5-1-1 in his past seven starts and has not allowed more than two goals in a game since a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 27.

Despite the early season struggles endured by both Toskala and his teammates, the veteran goalie always believed the team in front of him was a strong one once the players came together and showed some cohesion.

"Everything goes hand in hand," Toskala said. "It's easier for me when the team is playing good and vice versa. The team is feeling confident right now and that is a huge plus for us."

Toskala, like his teammates, heard the boos early on but those jeers have turned to cheers in recent weeks.

All the while, he claims he never got down on himself, even in the tough times.

"I don't know what (the fans) were saying back then," Toskala said. "You just have to trust yourself and the way that you play. You can only judge yourself.

"You can have all the talent in the world but confidence is the key to being on top of your game."

The Leafs can notice a difference in the play of Toskala, the former member of the San Jose Sharks.

"Vesa's settling down," forward Nik Antropov said. "Maybe it took him a little longer to adjust than some people expected but right now I think everyone in this room agrees that he is playing outstanding."

Toskala has lowered his goals-against average to 2.77 while his save percentage has climbed to .906.

With back-to-back games against the Atlanta Thrashers and Montreal Canadiens Friday and Saturday, it will be interesting to see if backup Andrew Raycroft gets his first start since being yanked in the first period of a sloppy 5-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Nov. 24.

LOOSE LEAFS

Winger Bates Battaglia officially cleared waivers at noon yesterday.


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