LOS ANGELES -- Just a few days ago, the Maple Leafs were not about to throw prized goaltending prospect Justin Pogge into the middle of the biggest team crisis in a decade.
But like Ken Wregget and Allan Bester during the Ballard years, a baptism by fire is coming for the youngster from Fort McMurray, Alta. Pogge was plucked from the AHL Marlies yesterday after their game in Milwaukee, with the Leafs also claiming checking forward Dominic Moore off waivers from the Minnesota Wild.
Both will join the team for tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks, who are licking their chops after the Leafs were outscored 10-2 in the first two stops of their California trip.
"We're not in ideal circumstances at this point," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said. "But you can have that debate any number of times. There are no easy opponents, if there ever were."
But Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice insisted tonight's start still could go to Vesa Toskala, countering reports that Toskala aggravated his groin injury when Andrew Raycroft collapsed against the Kings on Thursday night and forced a goalie change. Toskala, who badly wants the start against his former team, was walking fine yesterday. He expressed shock that Pogge was coming, insisting "I'm good to go" against San Jose, but it might not be up to him
After a rocky start to his pro career with the Marlies last year, Pogge is vastly improved this season with a record of 13-3, with two shutouts on a first-place team and working well with veteran Scott Clemmensen. Pogge was Canadian junior goalie of the year in 2006.
Raycroft, meanwhile, might have played his last game for the Leafs and could be put on waivers.
"I'm definitely looking for a hole to crawl into tonight," Raycroft said after the KIngs burned him for four goals in one period and drove his goals-against average over 4.00.
Moore's acquisition is a bit of a head-scratcher, though he fits under the salary cap. The Thornhill forward is the younger brother of Steve Moore, victimized by Todd Bertuzzi's career-ending hit a couple of years ago. The Leafs have several like-minded players on the Marlies. Moore, 27, has played 186 NHL games with Minnesota, Pittsburgh and the Rangers.
"He's an experienced two-way player who can do a little bit of everything," Ferguson said.