Andrew Raycroft wished a happy new year to all he passed yesterday, from the dressing room security guard to the equipment men.
Hard to blame Raycroft, given the sour end for him to 2007. He was plunked on the end of the Maple Leafs bench Saturday while the home crowd razzed him after he allowed five goals against the New York Rangers.
But he retained hope that coach Paul Maurice would offer redemption tonight against Tampa Bay instead of giving the start to farmhand Scott Clemmensen.
Maurice would not commit, only to say that No. 1 Vesa Toskala is getting better from his week-old groin injury, but won't play tonight "even if he walked in and did the splits."
Raycroft could blame his month-long layoff for some of the 13 goals that eluded him the past three losses, but can't escape blame for a soft back-door goal that sapped team confidence in a 6-1 loss to the Rangers.
That puts the onus on the Leafs to get the first one for him or Clemmensen tonight or at least have the whole team get through the first period unscathed.
"Get a few breaks, get a goal off the back of someone's head," Raycroft said.
Raycroft went through a familiar song and dance with reporters yesterday, maintaining his desire to stay a Leaf, even as Toskala's understudy for the present. Yet he knows the fan hostility towards him is growing.
"There's a lot of experts out there, a lot of call-in shows where people want to be the GM," Raycroft said. "But we'll make noise with this team, we'll get in a groove and go."
If Maurice starts Raycroft again in front of a testy home crowd, it will be defined as either a character builder or just plain sadistic.
"We haven't played our style (of late), so it becomes harder to assess your goalie," a coy Maurice said .
Clemmensen, used sparingly with the New Jersey Devils the past few years, wasn't campaigning publicly to start tonight, nor would he shy away if told to start.
"Opportunities are few and far between and I'm 30 years old," Clemmensen said. "I'm happy with the way I've played with the Marlies, but not satisfied that I'm getting away with some things I might not get away with in the NHL. I won't be satisfied until I get back in the NHL."