Jonas chasing the Cat

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Will it be The Monster catching The Cat?

Jonas Gustavsson is getting very close to Felix Potvin's modern-day mark of nine consecutive wins, set in October of 1993 as part of the Maple Leafs' NHL record of 10 wins to open the season.

Gustavsson goes for his eighth straight on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre against the Atlanta Thrashers.

In the course of the seven wins that began March 6, he has allowed 14 goals and been aided by five favourable decisions in overtime and shootouts. In five of the starts he has made at least 25 saves and in his last appearance, Saturday against Swedish star Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, he made 36 stops.

"The more you win, the more confidence you get," Gustavsson said. "But it's hard work. You just can't sit back and think you will win by just going out there."

Gustavsson has been through two heart ablation procedures, a groin injury and was part of the team-wide struggles in October and November. It was not the best way to get acclimatized to a new city, new league and new team.

"He has been awesome and now you're seeing what he is capable of doing," Leafs winger Viktor Stalberg said. "There are things he can get better at, but he's playing amazing right now and finding ways to win."

There will also be mounting pressure on the Leafs to get a long-term deal done as soon as possible and not let Gustavsson's lingering restricted free agent status become a huge summer distraction. He'll be turning 27 next season and would be eligible for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2011 if not locked up.

The ever-polite Gustavsson always gives a share of credit for his play thus far to the medical staff, to goaltending instructor Francois Allaire and to veteran partner Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who sometimes spends as much time tutoring the Swede on the ice as Allaire.

Much like Potvin accelerated his development to pass Grant Fuhr in the 1992-93 season, so Gustavsson appears ready to win the battle for the No. 1 role here in 2010-11.

But at this stage, Toronto coach Ron Wilson won't likely make any further adjustments to the goaltending rotation, with Giguere scheduled to play again Thursday at the ACC against Buffalo and get two more games afterwards.


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