Reimer returns to Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

TORONTO - Jonas Gustavsson wants to see more rubber and less Reimer in an NHL setting.

But James Reimer’s renewed presence in the Maple Leafs dressing room on Sunday — and on the team’s southbound charter where he’ll likely play the second of two road games — could mean Gustavsson is going to a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies. Coach Ron Wilson mentioned the possibility in passing on Friday and with Reimer suddenly back with the big club, it seems the Leafs could work their way around the problem of getting Gustavsson some games on the farm without risking waivers.

“We’re open to anything that will get (Gustvasson’s) confidence back,” Wilson said at the MasterCard Centre before the Leafs flew to Raleigh, N.C. “Those decisions won’t be made until after the all-star break.”

Gustavsson must give his assent to the temporary demotion. At present, the Leafs plan to use Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Monday against Carolina and likely Reimer on Tuesday in Tampa Bay. If Gustavsson doesn’t play either road game and is shelved until after the break on Feb. 1, he’ll have played just once in a month, an ugly 7-0 loss to the Rangers last Wednesday, more than enough reason to get him some action elsewhere.

The Marlies also play three times in four nights starting Tuesday before they shut down for the AHL all-star hiatus.

“I heard they called (Reimer) up, but nothing beyond that,” Gustavsson said. “It’s the way it is. That’s the situation and I’ll work hard. You have to go out and do the things you have done the past couple of years. I’m trying to come to the rink with lots of energy.”

But once more, the hot hand of the rookie Reimer has forced the Leafs to change their plans. After he rejuvenated the team by winning four of six decisions earlier this month, the Leafs reluctantly demoted him to give Giguere time to test his recovery from a groin injury. Then came Gustavsson’s stumble on the Broadway stage, while Reimer won a shootout game with the Marlies and recorded a 28-save shutout on Saturday against Peoria. Giguere, who played three games and is 1-2, allowing seven goals since Reimer went back, still isn’t 100% comfortable risking back-to-back starts and the roster space was there, so Reimer has returned.

“The way he played the last time he was up, you know he was going to get another chance,” Giguere said. “It was just a question of time. In terms of the timing, they have their reasons why and I can’t really comment on it. The only thing I know is it’s because he deserves it.”

Reimer’s simple, stand-up style had an immediate positive effect on the Leafs, who played with confidence around him and scored a lot more, too.

“I’m excited, I didn’t expect this,” Reimer said. “I kind of thought I’d be down there for awhile.”

“I’m happy with the opportunity. Hopefully I can get into a game and get a win again. (The last Marlies stint) was a big confidence boost. Lots of people work hard but don’t get the chance. I’m just trying to make the most of this.

Reimer’s bizarre flight plan this month has now gone Toronto-Ottawa-Toronto-Atlanta-Los Angeles-San Jose-Phoenix-Toronto-Vancouver-Winnipeg (his hometown)-Toronto-Carolina-Tampa Bay-Toronto.

“I’ve been able to get home for a couple of days this week,” Reimer laughed. “But the Marlies are taking off again on Tuesday afternoon (a bus trip to Cleveland) so (more travel) not that big of a change for me.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/sunhornby


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