Rested Reimer goes again for Leafs

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:29 PM ET

TORONTO - To say the Maple Leafs have been riding workhorse James Reimer would be an understatement. Coming into last night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres, the young goaltender, who turns 23 on Tuesday, had started 11 of 12 games for Toronto, compiling a 6-2-3. Reimer has looked sharp over the stretch, though cracks in the armour were starting to appear during his previous two starts.

So for Reimer’s sake alone, it was good coach Ron Wilson gave his players the day off Friday so they could rest up for Saturday night’s tilt against their division rival.

“We were a beat down a bit (after a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday),” Reimer said after Saturday’s morning skate. “Your body feels a lot better today, and mentally it’s just nice to get that break. You can go to the rink and just enjoy it, chat with the boys and have a good time and maybe forget about the game for a little bit.”

Reimer started for the Leafs again last night.

JONAS WHO?

Speaking of goalies, whatever happened to Jonas Gustavsson? Remember him, the guy who was supposed to be the Leafs’ saviour in net? After starting the season as Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s understudy, Gustavsson struggled and was sent down to the Marlies to make room for Reimer. He suffered a further setback when he had to have a third heart surgery. But that doesn’t mean Gustavsson doesn’t have heart. The lanky Swede, practising with the big club since the Feb. 28 trade deadline, is still around, plugging away, working on his game, hoping for another chance to prove himself with the Leafs.

“I feel great,” Gustavsson said after the morning skate. “Hopefully, it’s gone now (the heart problems). You can’t tell for sure, but that’s what I hope … Right now, I’m just practising hard, doing the best I can every day. You never know, it could be injuries, it could be something else and then you’re right back in (playing) again.

“Right now, I’m just trying to stay professional, stay sharp and focused and try to develop myself in practice and be ready because it’s hockey and anything can happen.”

BREATHE, PEOPLE, BREATHE

Air Canada is threatening to pull its sponsorship over the hit, and Via Rail is unhappy too. Leafs coach Ron Wilson? Well he just wants everybody to calm down.

“I think we’ve (the NHL) has done a pretty good job of eliminating head shots,” Wilson said after the morning skate. “But it doesn’t matter what the rules are, there’s still going to be these situations, and I wish everybody would stop and think. We play a contact sport, people are going to get hurt. If guys break their feet, should we tell them they’re not allowed to block shots, it’s a penalty if you block a shot and break your foot? This stuff happens all the time and it happens in all sports.”

Wilson, of course, was referring to the hit Boston Bruins hulking captain Zdeno Chara put on Max Pacioretty on Tuesday night, sending the Canadiens forward head-first into a glass partition at the Bell Centre in Montreal and off to the hospital with a severe concussion and a fractured neck.

ADDED PUNCH

Let’s face it, before Joffrey Lupul came along, the Leafs’ scoring punch was a little limited. You basically had Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin carrying the load. Sure Clarke MacArthur is there too. But with 19 goals already this season — a career high — MacArthur probably doesn’t have much more upside. But Lupul, who scored 28 goals for Anaheim during the 2005-06 season and hit 25 with Philly in 2008-09, definitely has some — especially if he can get healthy again.

“To be fair to Lupul, he’s still trying to find his game after missing almost a full year (with back injuries),” Wilson said. “But I think his game is coming around and he’s feeling comfortable with his linemates, and we’re asking him to play left wing rather than right, so that’s an adjustment too. But I think he’s starting to feel comfortable offensively.”


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