Toskala has the itch

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Vesa Toskala might be gone but he is not forgotten.

Not in San Jose, anyway.

"I talked to (Sharks goalie) Evgeni Nabokov on the phone two weeks ago," Toskala said. "He said he watches a lot of our games on TV."

Toskala and Nabokov remain friends despite the fact they battled each other for playing time for a number of years with the Sharks. That problem was resolved when Toskala was dealt to the Leafs along with forward Mark Bell for a package of draft picks last June.

"The two of us actually got along very well," Toskala said. "Sure we were competing against each other but there was no reason to carry that off the ice.

"The three of us here in Toronto get along great too," he added, referring to fellow goalies Scott Clemmensen and Andrew Raycroft.

Asked how it will feel to play in San Jose again, Toskala admitted it might be strange.

"I have been in the visitors dressing room there before," Toskala said. "It was for the white-and-teal (intrasquad) game."

Having missed six games with a groin injury, Toskala would love to be back in time for his return to The Shark Tank on Saturday. But he might be able to get back between the pipes before then, possibly in Anaheim against the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks Wednesday or versus the Los Angeles Kings Thursday.

Toskala yesterday turned in his strongest practice since being sidelined, but he would not put a timetable on his return.

"It was encouraging to see him move side-to-side like that," coach Paul Maurice said. "If he feels good (tomorrow), then we'll see how it goes. We'll leave it to him to tell us when he is ready."

STEPPING UP

In the absence of defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, Maurice figures slumping defenceman Andy Wozniewski and rookie Anton Stralman must help pick up the slack.

"Woz will have to revert back to form and Anton likely will get more time," Maurice said. "We'll be leaning heavily on our big guys for big minutes too."


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