Toskala thriving on big workload

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Unflappable Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala considers himself a veritable fashion connoisseur, a guy who loves to go shopping for clothes almost as much as he does stopping pucks.

To hear Washington Capitals forward Sergei Fedorov tell it, Toskala was wearing his top Superman outfit last night, the blue-and-white variety.

"He made very key saves for them," Fedorov said after the Leafs' 3-2 victory at the Verizon Center. "Next time we have to put the puck through the net."

With Toskala having started 18 games in a row, the Leafs are within five points of the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

Given the fact there are just 15 games remaining, all against Eastern Conference opponents, count on coach Paul Maurice riding this horse as long as he can. Eight of those games will come at the Air Canada Centre.

Do they, realistically, still have a shot? Considering there are still 10 meetings left versus Northeast Division rivals Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston, the dream, while a long shot at best, is not dead.

Nor will it be if Toskala continues to steal points like this.

"I don't think we should stare at the standings too much," Toskala said. "We should just go game by game and do our best."

Toskala already has played 53 games this season, 15 more than his previous career high. Yet he insists he can keep going, thanks to a workout regimen that allows him to preserve energy.

"I don't have to be the first star of every practice," he said. "You have to practise smart. I don't need to face 150 shots (every day)."

At age 30, Toskala admits this has been the best opportunity of his career to be a full-time starter, one that allows him to carry the bulk of the workload between the pipes. It is a chance he is not about to relinquish.

"I think (my resolve) has to do with the organization I was in," Toskala said, referring to his days with the San Jose Sharks when he had to compete with the likes of Evgeni Nabokov and, at one point, Miikka Kiprusoff, for playing time. "I spent a lot of time in the minors. It was frustrating.

"At the same time, it teaches you that you might only get one chance in your career to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. And I like to play a lot."

At this rate, Toskala, already with 26 wins, might not get another rest until the season ends.

You won't hear his teammates or the fans complaining if that happens.


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