Toskala better be better

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

HUNTSVILLE -- He was the last line of defence on a team that allowed the most goals in the NHL this past season.

And then Vesa Toskala had an awful .860 save percentage in an at-times shaky exhibition campaign. If that wasn't enough, the man tenuously holding the Leafs starting spot in net has a legitimate prospect in Jonas Gustavsson fighting for his job.

So is the pressure on for the Finnish incumbent in the Leafs net?

"We don't want any excuses from anybody, most of all from our goaltender," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said this week.

Consider that a challenge based on two things: Three surgeries Toskala had this past spring, plus the Leafs revamped defence.

As is his way, Toskala shrugged off the mounting attention on the eve of his starting assignment for the opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I'm looking forward to having a good season," Toskala said yesterday. "My body feels good, no excuses. I don't see any reason why I can't play well."

Toskala also rejected the threat of the "Monster" challenge he may face from the lanky Swede, Gustavsson.

"He makes our team better," Toskala said. "We need every possible point no matter who is in the net."

Criticized at times for his work habits in practice a year ago, Toskala had a busy training camp under the tutelage of new goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

The emphasis has been on focus and consistency, two areas where Toskala may have struggled in the past.

"Everybody who plays for me usually ends up having a better save percentage. I just try to give them the best information. After that, he has to take it seriously," Allaire said.


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