By the end of next week, the Maple Leafs could be seeing Martin Brodeur in their nightmares.
The Leafs, starting on Friday night in Newark, N.J., will be entering a part of their schedule that makes little sense, playing the New Jersey Devils, and potentially Brodeur, three times in eight days. In the midst of the devilish dates, the Leafs will get another top-notch goaltender, the Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo, on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
How does a team that has lost four in a row, is languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings and averaging 2.6 goals a game stand a chance?
"It's going to be hard to score against them," winger Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "They're two of the best goalies in the league. That's why we have to work hard and get our bodies in front of them."
Strangely, Brodeur doesn't have as firm a grip on the Leafs as he does on other clubs. In 42 career games against Toronto, the projected starter for Canada at the Olympics next month is an ordinary 17-15-10 (the latter stat combining ties and overtime losses) with a .909 save percentage, 2.46 goals-against average and three shutouts.
And the Leafs, who have not faced the Devils yet in 2009-10, were 3-0-1 against them last season.
One guy who relishes the idea of squaring off with Brodeur is someone who won't get anywhere near him. Though Leafs coach Ron Wilson said he likely will use both Jonas Gustavsson and Vesa Toskala in games this weekend, Gustavsson probably can count on facing Brodeur at least twice in the coming days. With Yann Danis rarely starting for New Jersey, and the three Leafs/Devils games spread apart, the Leafs will have plenty of chances to crash Marty's party.
"One game, anything can happen," Gustavsson said. "Brodeur has had great success, won a lot of Cups, and I can't compete with that. But I can compete with him for one game. You want to beat those guys, and it will be a great challenge and a great experience."