Career backup expected to get rare start for the Leafs

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

'You really ought to give Iowa a try', goes an opening number in The Music Man.

Well, John Ferguson and Paul Maurice put hockey first and Broadway shows second, but both seemed to have that tune in mind yesterday on the subject of Des Moines-born netminder Scott Clemmensen.

"We brought Scott in (last summer) for a reason," Maple Leafs' coach Maurice said yesterday when asked if Clemmensen could start tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Lightning for a shaky Andrew Raycroft. "All things are possible (including No. 1 Vesa Toskala returning from a groin injury)."

When he called up the 30-year-old Clemmensen from the Marlies on Boxing Day, Ferguson did not envision him getting off the bench while Raycroft filled in for Toskala. But that was before Toskala took longer than expected to heal and Raycroft gave up nine goals in 41/2 periods.

Clemmensen, who allowed one goal on five shots in relief in Saturday's 6-1 debacle against the Rangers, is shaping up as a safe bet tomorrow as opposed to rushing Toskala back or risking another deflating start by Raycroft in front of howling home fans.

"Scott hasn't seen a lot of starts (as Martin Brodeur's seldom-used backup in New Jersey), but he wouldn't be facing any kind of shooters he hasn't seen," Ferguson said. "We've got two goalies here and Scott is one of them. He's demonstrated a lot of character with the Marlies (11-4, a .905 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average)."

While Clemmensen is trying to stay under the radar with "just-happy-to-be-here" quotes, he is proud to talk about being a hockey trail blazer in his home state.

"I was the first Iowan drafted in the NHL (215th in '97), the seventh to play Division I hockey (Boston College) and the first to make it above the East Coast League," he said. "There were 10 high schools in Des Moines (a city of 300,000), but only enough players for one team. So we went around and played against other high schools in Iowa and some as far away as St. Joseph's. Mo., and Omaha, Neb.

"There was no major junior (league) to choose from, but I was lucky. The coach of the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL saw me and invited me on their team."


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