Ron Wilson remains mum on his choice of starting goaltender for tomorrow's home game against Ottawa, but signs are pointing to Jonas Gustavsson.
The Maple Leafs' coach isn't going to toss Vesa Toskala under the bus just two games into the season. But it would be more of a risk to go back to Toskala in front of an antsy home crowd, where another early goal against could turn 19,000 fans on him in a hurry, not to mention the negative effect on the bench. The struggling Toskala gave up a goal on his first shot on Saturday in Washington and two more on the next six.
For this game at least, Gustavsson would be much better received making his first NHL start coming off a decent mop-up job for Toskala, inspiring three third-period goals by his team and an undented three pre-season periods. The 0-1-1 Leafs have allowed 10 goals in two games overall, seven by Toskala.
"We don't question anything Vesa's done, we're just going to put in the guy who is playing best," Wilson said, after Gustavsson stopped 16 of 19 shots against the Caps. "You'll just have to come to the game and see who comes out of the tunnel first."
Toskala is carrying an ugly .800 save percentage, not including a blowout loss in his last exhibition game. But Wilson could not fault Toskala alone for the 6-4 loss in Washington.
"I could have had Turk Broda in there and it's 3-0 after the first period and you're going to make a change," Wilson said. "We had some defencemen who played like peewee hockey players, but they're not under the microscope like the goaltenders.
"This isn't about Jonas, this isn't about Vesa, it's about trying to win hockey games. We know both of our goalies can get the job done, it's just a matter of getting Vesa comfortable again and I'm confident he's going to get the job done."
Goalie consultant Francois Allaire spent time with both Toskala and Gustavsson today, before and after practice at the Mastercard Centre.
Centre Wayne Primeau was scratched from practice yesterday, "banged up" in Wilson's words. Nikolai Kulemin, a scratch in the first two games, was back on the wing on a line with Rickard Wallin and Lee Stempniak and should play somewhere tomorrow.
The lines and pairings at practice today were:
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Mikhail Grabovski-Nicklas Hagman
Viktor Stalberg-Matt Stajan-Jason Blake
Nikolai Kulemin-Rickard Wallin-Lee Stempniak
Jay Rosehill-John Mitchell-Colton Orr
Extra - Jamal Mayers
Tomas Kaberle-Mike Komisarek
Luke Schenn-Francois Beauchemin
Garnet Exelby-Ian White