Back to basics for Toskala

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

He'll stick with his goalie skates rather than his golf spikes, but when Corey Hirsch gets to put in some quality work time with Vesa Toskala today, he'll be doing the equivalent of fine-tuning the struggling netminder's swing.

The Leafs goalie coach plans to get some extra tutoring with Toskala at practice this week as the team takes advantage of a four-day break to work out some of the kinks.

"It's just like a golf pro on tour," Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher said yesterday of Toskala's recent struggles. "You get a little quirk in your swing and you have to spend some time on the practice range.

"Just like golf, when you have a couple of bad games, you start second-guessing yourself and that's when you can really have trouble. Corey will get some time to work with Vesa this week."

A couple of soft goals allowed does not a crisis make, but it has been clear in the past two games that Toskala has been off.

He allowed four goals on nine shots before getting the hook in Vancouver on Saturday and then picked up where he left off on Monday night allowing a soft first-period goal to the Bruins, setting the tone for a 3-2 loss.

ONE ON ONE

Enter Hirsch. Beginning with this morning's practice at the Air Canada Centre, the most recent hire to coach Ron Wilson's staff plans to get in a good half hour or more with the Finn the team expects to be a standout rather than merely the average player his 3.23 goals against average would suggest.

"With Vesa, it's not anything technical, it's just a matter of getting him working and playing to the level he's capable of," Hirsch said yesterday. "We'd like to get him a little more aggressive on some point shots and we'll work on some little things. But he doesn't get rattled and when he gets heated up, we all know what he can do.

"Other teams might get away with a goalie having an off night, but with a young team, our guys have to be on top of it every night."

After playing four games in seven nights, the break couldn't have come at a more opportune time for Wilson and his teaching-oriented coaching crew.

"Obviously, there are always things to be working on, but it's a good time for a little break to re-energize and re-focus," Hirsch said.

"We're a young team. The way the NHL schedule is, it doesn't allow for a lot of teaching time. This team needs to learn and that's a great thing about our coaching staff -- they're all teachers and good at what they do."

Though Toskala has struggled through the recent stretch in which the Leafs have won just two of their past eight, there is no sense of panic in the organization.

Wilson plans to go right back to Toskala on Saturday for what will be his 18th start in 20 games.

"I don't think it's a big concern," Fletcher said. "All goaltenders go through a few games like that, Vesa's no different. We need him to play well for us to have a chance for us to win the game, but we're not waving any red flags on Vesa's play."


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