TORONTO - After the game ended and the dressing room cleared, Jonas Gustavsson sat alone, head down, not moving.
Just like the state of his fledgling career.
It’s one thing to be playing for the Toronto Marlies, where he doesn’t want to be. It’s another to be lifted from a game, not because he wasn’t playing up to par, but because the racing heart that previously threatened his professional career returned Wednesday morning at the Ricoh Centre for a rare early day game in the American Hockey League.
Gustavsson played one uneventful period against the sleepy Connecticut Whale, facing four shots that any minor bantam goalie could have handled, and didn’t return for the rest of the 9-2 victory, and midway through the first 20 minutes knew something wasn’t right.
“I felt it in the first period. I don’t know exactly when. Somewhere in the first I felt it,” said a rather disconsolate Gustavsson post game. This season, to date, has not gone his way. After a decent start, he began playing erratically for the Leafs. The Leafs then dispatched him to the Marlies for what they termed a conditioning stint. And on the conditioning stint, his heart condition, with an elevated heart rate, suddenly has emerged as an issue again, just as it did in his first NHL season.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Gustavsson. “I’m going to talk to the doctors soon, again, and we’ll see what they say. They said it wasn’t as bad as last year and I could have gone in to play the third period. But we decided not to do that ... It’s more frustrasting not to be able to keep going.”
In Gustavsson’s first season in Toronto, he had two different heart proceduces that otherwise hampered a decent rookie season. The second season sure didn’t need this kind of interruption.
“It’s not like my heart goes up every every time I have to work,” said Gustavsson. “It goes up, like normally. As I said, it slowed down kind of quick too ... It wasn’t as bad as last year. I could have gone in and played the third period. We decided not to do that.”
“(Mostly) I’ve been doing good. I didn’t feel any of this (from) last year. Hopefully, it’s going to stay this way.”
After Gustavsson’s procedures as a rookie, doctors informed him there was a possibility the condition could return. They “couldn’t guarantee it won’t come back but I’m feeling good. I’m going to talk to the doctors soon and see what they say.”
Gustavsson said he felt capable of travelling with the Marlies to the West Coast on their upcoming road trip and Burke confirmed that was this case. He will likely start a few more games for the Marlies before returning to the Leafs, who will have to find some kind of solution to having three goaltenders on their big-league roster with only two spots of consequence. The Leafs are almost certain to try and trade veteran J-S Giguere before the Feb. 28 deadline, but that will be very difficult to do because the amount of money left on Giguere’s expiring contract.
With Gustavsson out, prospect Jussi Rynnas played the final two period and allowed both Whale goals in a terribly one-sided game. The best news of the day may have come from the still-developing Christian Hanson, who scored a goal and set up four others in the Toronto win.