Toskala ready to fight for No. 1 status

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

With all this Monster Mania sweeping through Leafland over the off-season, Vesa Toskala barely has been much more than a footnote in the public's conscience.

That, he vows, will change once training camp opens tomorrow at the Mastercard Centre, the Maple Leafs new practice facility in the city's west end.

Despite all the hype and hoopla surrounding the signing of Swedish goalie Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson in the summer, Toskala is not about to give up his starting job without a fight. Far from it.

Told that Gustavsson had publicly stated his intentions to snap up the No. 1 job, the laid-back Toskala simply shrugged his shoulders matter-of-factly.

"You have to prove yourself every year," Toskala said. "Obviously (management) is trying to make things as good as possible as every position, including goal.

"My focus, like it is every year, is to be the starter."

Toskala finished 45th out of 47 goaltenders with a 3.26 goals-against average in 2008-09 but you can put an asterisk beside those stats. Health issues dogged him for much of the season, so much so that the Leafs finally shut him down in order for him to undergo hip and sports hernia surgeries.

Now, after spending a chunk of the off-season healing, Toskala has proclaimed himself ready to go.

"Nothing hurts," he said confidently. "It's actually been a fun summer.

"I did most of my rehab over here before I went back to Finland, where I worked out with my former team for about three or four weeks. Then I worked out a bit with the guys over here recently."

Toskala had never met Gustavsson until last week when the two men took part in an unsupervised scrimmage involving Leaf players and prospects at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

Improvement

"Everybody has the same goal," Toskala said. "Hopefully (Gustavsson's) addition along with some of the others we've made, will make our team better."


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