Leafs fight for respect

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:31 PM ET

The winless Maple Leafs could take up a whole row of airplane seats with four goaltenders on their coming five-game road trip, but the most nervous has to be Joey MacDonald.

With Jonas Gustavsson and Vesa Toskala close to being ready, the projected starter for Saturday's game against Vancouver wants to leave a good impression after being in net for the team's past two losses. Toskala forfeited his starting job to Gustavsson and then both were hurt, elevating MacDonald, with James Reimer summoned from the Marlies. MacDonald wasn't bad, but the month-long team problem of one bad goal per game haunted him as well.

Though the two injured stoppers worked out in full equipment at the Mastercard Centre today, they won't likely be ready for Saturday, giving MacDonald a chance to make a good impression before his likely return to the AHL.

"Whatever the circumstances are, you have to make the coach's decision tougher," MacDonald said. "Once we get that first win, we're going to string a few together."

Coach Ron Wilson is pleased with the gradual progress of Toskala (knee) and Gustavsson (groin).

"I'm sure Vesa and Jonas will be ready sometime during the trip," Wilson said, having hinted Gustavsson would be his choice to play in Anaheim on Monday or Dallas on Wednesday. "We'll need those other guys (MacDonald and Reimer) until they're ready."

Wilson spent the second of five consecutive practice days trying to isolate specific game conditions, doing so with new sets of forward lines the past two days. The drills became very intense at times.

"That's what we want right now," Wilson said. "Hopefully, it carries over into the games. The most physical guy we had today was Luke Schenn (the defenceman benched for most of the third period in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers). That was nice to see because he struggled a little bit."

Wilson said the losing streak, coupled with the hamburger drills, are creating the perfect storm for a fight during practice and that such a result wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I want some players to get mad at each other, not just me getting mad at them," Wilson said. "It wouldn't shock me before the end of the week if we have a fight or two. Which would be a good kind of elixir for us.

"I'm not going to beat this team into the ground, they feel bad enough about themselves."

Defenceman Ian White returned today after taking an extra day to let a 25-stitch cut under his nose heal from getting a puck in the face on Saturday.

Wilson said not to read too much into his forward lines as they're a "Rubik's Cube" at present. But today's forward lines were:

Alexei Ponikarovsky Mikhail Grabovski Jason Blake

Viktor Stalberg Matt Stajan Niklas Hagman

Jay Rosehill Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel

John Mitchell Rickard Wallin Lee Stempniak

Jamal Mayers Keith Primeau Colton Orr

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos