TORONTO - The Leafs are currently going through one of their toughest stretches of November, with four games in seven nights from the 16th to the 22nd.
To help them cope with the physical stresses, coach Ron Wilson made Thursday morning’s pre-game skate optional. Many players took advantage of the opportunity to rest their bodies, with just 13 of them hitting the ice. Defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who sat out Wednesday’s practice, said it’s important to be healthy with such a heavy workload.
“I just took a rest day, just a little sore, my body,” Beauchemin said about not practising Wednesday. “You know, we play tonight, Saturday, Monday, all big dates for us. So we have to be at the top of our game every night. Practice days are more about not being rusty. But when we need a rest, take it.”
EYE ON THE PRIZE
Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s misfortune could be Jonas Gustavsson’s big break. Giguere, the Leafs’ top netminder, pulled himself out of the club’s win over Nashville on Tuesday because of a groin-related injury and now Gustavsson, if he plays well enough, should be in net every game Giguere is gone.
So is he ready to take over the No. 1 role?
“Well, it’s always hard to say, we’ll see how it goes,” Gustavsson said after the pre-game skate. “That’s my goal, to one day be the No. 1 goalie. I don’t know how long it will take. It’s something I am looking for in the future.”
Wilson acknowledged this is a big chance for Gustavsson. “He has got to view this as his opportunity to really take the ball and run with it, and I hope he does.”
GOOD OL’ WHATSHISNAME
Forward Kris Versteeg, who scored two power-play goals on Tuesday, might want to find out exactly who that big Swede in net for Toronto is.
Here’s Versteeg, on Gustavsson stepping in for the injured Giguere: “Gustaph, er, Goostaph, er Monster, whatever you guys (the media) want to call him, he’s so big, he’s so athletic, he covers a lot of the net and he can play the puck well, so it will help our defence out there.”
His name isn’t important as long as he wins, we guess.
The Leafs dug themselves out of a big first-period hole on Tuesday night to defeat Nashville 5-4 and end an eight-game losing skid. One of the reasons they were able to do that was added scoring from their defence. Luke Schenn got an extremely important goal at the end of the first period to put some life in the Leafs, who were down 3-0 at the time. Prior to the game, Toronto defenders had recorded only two goals.
“That was a great goal by Luke. He toe-dragged the guy, and then shot potst and in. That was the turning point of the game for us,” Beauchemin said.
“It’s nice to contribute a little bit and kind of get the monkey off your back,” Schenn said of his first goal of the season.
Tim Brent on blocking a hard shot in the Nashville game that forced him to sit out Wednesday’s practice: “You know it’s going to hurt, it’s going to sting for a little bit. But when it comes down to it, it’s worth it.” … Beauchemin on falling behind 3-0 to the Predators: “We’ve talked about it for the last two years, we want to have better starts. You can’t get down 3-0 every night.”