Monster gets mixed review

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

TORONTO - While Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson’s assessment of goalie Jonas Gustavsson’s play prior to Thursday night’s tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets was less than glowing, the coach did say the team hasn’t always been there for the Big Swede.

“He’s been up and down,” Wilson said of the Monster’s play. “He’s had some really good games. The problem is, we haven’t won with him in the net when he’s played great. We’ve lost a lot of games 2-1, 2-0 and he’s been outstanding. I think he’s gotten a little frustrated. He had a very good game in New Jersey. The last game (against Carolina), he was average, at best.”

Gustavsson stopped 29 of 32 shots in a 3-2 loss on Thursday night and saw his record fall to 5-12-2.

Mix It Up, Phil

Leafs sniper Phil Kessel netted his 13th and 14th goals of the season in a 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night and Wilson thinks the nifty forward can continue to have scoring success if he mixes things up a bit.

“I haven’t ever seen Phil score on a backhand and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Phil score on a slap shot one-timer,” Wilson said after the Leafs morning skate Thursday, referring to the methods Kessel used to score his two goals. “Those are two things that he hasn’t done and the puck went in the net, so try to do different things — and he has — and he’s been working on one-timers in practice. So just as long as the opportunities are there, goal-scorers will eventually score.”

Kessel failed to find the net on Thursday night.

Schenn-timental

As if Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn wasn’t already proud enough of his little brother Brayden. To follow up a five-point performance against the Czech Republic, the Team Canada forward went out and netted four goals against Norway on Wednesday night at the world junior tournament to equal the mark for Canadians set by Mario Lemieux and Simon Gagne. Brayden added an assist to make it two straight contests in which he had five points.

“It’s real exciting for me to see him do that well and I’m just glad for him. He’s had a tough start to the season,” Luke said of his little brother, who is property of the L.A. Kings but was sent back to the Brandon Wheat Kings. “Now he’s getting rewarded for all the hard work he has done. You never go into a game expecting to score four goals.”

Crunch time

It’s getting to a point in the season when being 12 points out of the playoff race is almost insurmountable, so the Leafs know they have to make the most of their current homestand. After games against Boston and St. Louis at the ACC next week, Toronto plays five out of six out on the road where points will be tough to come by.

“Everyone just has to do their part ... We need to get a string (of wins) going now,” forward Clarke MacArthur said. “I think one thing we have to do is get a lot of traffic (in front of the net) and a lot of shots” on net as a way to produce goals.

Paging Dr. Wilson

If coach Wilson is ever looking for a career change, perhaps he could go into medicine. He certainly seems to have a good grasp of the birthing process.

“The first child often takes a little bit longer,” Wilson said when fielding questions about Mikhail Grabovski’s absence from the morning skate and whether or not the hot-handed centre would be back in time to face Columbus.

Grabovski took the skate and game off to be with his girlfriend who was in labour.


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