Toskala's injury being treated with caution

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala takes the ice as he replaces teammate Andrew Raycroft in...

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala takes the ice as he replaces teammate Andrew Raycroft in goal after Raycroft allowing two goals against the Phoenix Coyotes in the first half of the first period of a hockey game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007, in Glendale, Ariz.(AP Photo/Paul Connors)

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

Which will re-appear first for the Maple Leafs, goaltender Vesa Toskala or the team's offence?

Both are badly needed tonight against the New York Rangers, though coach Paul Maurice yesterday re-affirmed faith in Andrew Raycroft to see the team through a third game in place of Toskala. The Leafs are 0-1-1 without Toskala, their best player this month, still insisting he has a short-term tightening of the groin muscle and could be back by the New Year's Day game against Tampa.

"He had a groin injury last year (playing for San Jose)," Maurice revealed. "With that kind of injury, we thought it best to just shut it down and get him off the ice.

"If he was a forward, he could play, but you don't ask a forward to do the splits."

Toskala was not on the ice for Toronto's practice yesterday, its first at home since concluding seven road games with an unsatisfying record of 2-3-2, scoring just 10 goals in the final six games.

ABSOLVED

Raycroft made 30 saves on Thursday in Philadelphia, but allowed four goals. Maurice, however, absolved him and pointed out that the goalie's play in an unexpected start on Long Island the night before had earned the Leafs a point.

Raycroft called that 4-3 overtime loss "the hardest game I ever played" after sitting on the bench since Nov. 24.

To this point, the Leafs have not put Toskala on injured reserve, though some juggling will be needed to accommodate Marlies callup Scott Clemmensen, whose emergency status ended yesterday, putting the Leafs one over the 23-man roster. They have forward Jiri Tlusty and defenceman Anton Stralman also up from the Marlies, with forwards John Pohl and Wade Belak in the press box, along with defenceman Andy Wozniewski, who was bumped when Carlo Colaiacovo came back on Thursday night.

Maurice shuffled lines in Philly in an unsuccessful attempt to spark some slumping forwards. But expect him to leave Mats Sundin's line intact in large part tonight as well as Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and Boyd Devereaux together.

"The way the Rangers are structured, maybe it will be more of our top two lines and their top two and slug out the rest of it," Maurice said. "I still have faith in those (struggling) players to get it going."


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