Net pains for Leafs' Monster

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 PM ET

With James Reimer getting the start in the Maple Leafs net Tuesday night in Tampa, Jonas Gustavsson has now been in for just one of the past 10 games.

The gangly Swede’s second season in the NHL has been a struggle, to say the least, as he is stuck with a 6-13-2 record, a 3.28 goals against average and a .890 save percentage.

Veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere says Gustavsson has managed to remain positive despite an apparent regression from his rookie season.

“The message is, it’s like a bump in the road,” said Giguere, who has been a willing mentor to the Monster. “We all know how good he can be, there’s no question in our mind.

“He has to have good practices and stay positive. He has good resources here and has to use them.”

For his part, Gustavsson is trying to remain positive so that he can turn it around when he gets his next start after the all-star break.

“I know it’s a long season and I just have to keep going and be ready the next time I’m going to play,” said Gustavsson, who backed up Reimer last night. “You have to take advantage of the practices and work hard. If you don’t practice hard, it’s going to be tough to find (your game) when you do get the chance.”

PHIL THE THRILL?

When the rest of the Leafs scatter for their all-star break, Phil Kessel will return to Raleigh, N.C. for the all-star game.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Kessel said. “Any time you get a chance to play against the best in the game, you want to take advantage of it.”

Kessel is the lone Leafs representative at the game, based largely on his offence, though that has gone missing lately.

Entering Tuesday’s game in Tampa, Kessel hadn’t scored in his previous six games, struggles that are compounded by a minus-19 rating. Only two forwards in the league are worse on the plus-minus scale — Simon Gagne of the Lightning (who is also all-star game bound) at minus-20 and Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils at minus-27.

RUNNING ON FUMES

Tuesday’s contest was a tough assignment for the Leafs, who were finishing off a five games in seven nights stretch with a back-to-back set. Even worse, the Lightning and their potent offensive attack were rested and waiting.

“We want to go into the break on a high note,” said forward Tim Brent, the fourth-liner who stepped up with a pair of goals Monday in the Leafs’ loss to Carolina.

“We went into Christmas on a tough three-game losing streak and we don’t want to go into the all-star break like that. After the break, the pressure is really on and we need to be at our best when we come back.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Marlies defenceman Keith Aulie has been added to the Western Conference team roster for the AHL All-Star Classic to be played in Hershey, Pa., later this month. The towering defenceman has played nine games for the Leafs this season ... Brent

(@Brenter37) is the latest Leaf to join the Twitter-verse and it couldn’t have come at a better time considering he did it hours before his two goal, one assist night in Carolina. “(The messages) I’ve been getting were all good.” ... The Leafs were to return home following Tuesday’s game and have a practice scheduled for Wednesday at the MasterCard Centre before scattering for the break ... The Lightning won the first two meetings of the season against the Leafs with a pair of victories in Toronto in November ... Brent on Nikolai Kulemin coming out of his knockout with just a blackened right eye. “Knowing how tough (Kulemin) is and how much of a bulldog he really is, it’s not that big of a surprise. He’s a tough character.”


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