Joseph not ready to quit

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Maple Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph was asked yesterday if he has thought about "packing it in."

That is, walking away from the NHL and leaving professional hockey after 18 seasons, two NHL all-star selections and 449 wins.

"That's a good question," Joseph said, before pausing to contemplate his next statement. "No. I feel good. I feel good physically, no injuries, I just have to get a game where you have a good game and things turn around quickly."

More and more, the Leafs' goaltending situation has come under scrutiny. And there is some controversy building.

The Leafs regular starter Vesa Toskala missed last night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers because of a sore groin, aggravated in Toronto's 7-3 win in Pittsburgh on Saturday. But instead of putting in regular backup Joseph, the Leafs called up Justin Pogge from the Marlies and started him last night.

GM Brian Burke said that the club wants to see what Pogge, who has toiled for over two seasons in the AHL, can do at the NHL level. But the timing is interesting.

Joseph has struggled as a backup this season, posting an 0-4 record with a save percentage of .838 and a goals-against of 4.33. There is talk that head coach Ron Wilson has lost faith in his backup, hence the "real" reason for Pogge's call-up, though the organization denies Pogge's arrival has anything to do with Joseph's slump.

Joseph, meanwhile, said all he can do is continue to work hard in practice, hope he gets the chance to play again, and play well when he does get that chance. And not get too down on himself.

"Well, I've only started four games, so I don't know if I'm going to judge my season on that," he said yesterday morning.

"All you can do is focus. That's the major thing."

Pogge, meanwhile, is under pressure as well. The 22-year-old has waited over two full seasons to get his chance to play an NHL game, and now has to seize the moment.

Being touted as the organization's "goaltender of the future" doesn't make things any easier. But the Fort McMurray, Alta. native vowed not to let the pressure get to him.

"There's no point turning yourself into a mess worrying about it," Pogge said, adding that he had a "really good" sleep on Sunday night.

"But I had a dream that I was late for practice," he added, with a laugh.

Centre John Mitchell, who played with Pogge for two years with the Marlies, has faith that Pogge will eventually live up to his advance billing.

"He's a really good goalie and I've seen him play excellent games in the past and there's no reason why he can't do it here," said Mitchell.

The Leafs expect Toskala to be ready tonight against the Dallas Stars, but Pogge might get another shot.


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