Toskala nearly ready

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

There were sighs of relief throughout the Air Canada Centre yesterday as the morning skate wrapped up and goalie Vesa Toskala came out in full equipment.

Toronto's No. 1 goaltender had not been seen on the ice since a 2-1 win over Florida on Dec. 22, coming back from the Christmas break complaining of tightness in the groin area. He did some stretching and saw some light shooting and went back in the room to ride the exercise bike.

'He's really good, he's improving each and every day," coach Paul Maurice said,

But Maurice would not say if Toskala can return for tomorrow night's game in Pittsburgh, no doubt waiting to see how Scott Clemmensen fared last night, while knowing there would be significantly less pressure on Andrew Raycroft to start again on the road.

BOYCE SIGNS

The Leafs have signed centre Darryl Boyce to an entry level contract. The University of New Brunswick product has surprised with the Marlies this year, scoring 22 points with 56 penalty minutes in 32 games. Boyce leads the Marlies with a plus-17 rating.

NO GREAT OUTDOORS

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited had league permission to plan for an outdoor game at BMO Field, before the team dropped the idea early in 2007.

"In the end, it would've been a lot of work to lose a lot of money," MLSEL president and CEO Richard Peddie said in March. "You're talking about a number of costs; putting in the ice, moving our suite holders, the extra bleachers (to seat 3,000 and bring the capacity to around 23,000). Then you have to think about the weather."

Buffalo, Montreal and Detroit were mentioned as opponents, while there are reports the Wings might invite the Leafs to play if they stage a game later this year or early 2009.

"It's a good thing we're having an old-fashioned indoor game," Leafs' forward Wade Belak joked yesterday. "But I would've liked playing an outdoor game in a place such as the Rogers Centre."

THE MINUS TOUCH

Lightning forward Brad Richards, who makes $7.8 million US a year, was leading the league in an ignominious category at minus 21 before yesterday.

"I don't look at (plus-minus) that much," Richards said. "I think I've been on for about six empty net goals. I think it's more of a team stat."


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