Monster in net, Kessel plays
DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
|Jonas Gustavsson, here making a stop against New York Thursday night, will get the start Saturday night against Pittsburgh and, likely, Sunday night in Ottawa, coach Ron Wilson says. (REUTERS)
It looks as if Jonas Gustavsson is going to get a couple of more games under his belt before relinquishing the Leafs’ goaltending reins back to No. 1 ’keeper James Reimer.
As planned, Gustavsson will get the start on Saturday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins (8-2-2) in place of the injured Reimer. But it now looks as if the lanky Swede will also play Sunday in Ottawa against the Senators.
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said he was “doubtful” Reimer, who will be coming off the injured reserve list after tonight’s game at the Air Canada Centre, would be playing on Sunday.
“I’m not predicting that. But cause he hasn’t really practised, he’s probably doubtful for tomorrow,” Wilson said after the Leafs’ morning skate on Saturday. “He’s on the IR, he’ll come off after the game tonight. We’ll see how he is.”
Gustavsson , 2-2-0 with a 4.08 goals against average and .876 save percentage, picked up his second win of the season on Thursday night, turning away 28 of 30 shots in New York against the Rangers. It was a steady performance and added to the strong work he had put in against the Flyers during a 4-2 loss in Philadelphia.
“I think the Monster has shown big strides in terms of his confidence. If he plays as well as I think he can tonight, he’ll probably go tomorrow as well,” Wilson said.
It must be a relief to have the Monster finally looking like a reliable backup, but the Leafs must also be relieved that Reimer, who was injured last Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, should be back shortly.
Another reason the Leafs are probably breathing easier is red-hot sniper Phil Kessel will be in uniform tonight. There was some speculation the Leafs were holding back on Kessel’s condition after the first-line forward lasted less than 10 minutes at practice on Friday. But he was out on the ice Saturday morning and Wilson laid to rest any fears when asked if Kessel had any injury issues.
On Friday, Wilson had said Kessel was “a little banged up” after absorbing a couple of hits in New York and had decided “he rather take the rest of the day off.”
But the way the Leafs had been coy with Reimer’s injury, calling it whiplash when it appears it might have been something more serious, there was some concern Kessel might miss Saturday’s tilt against Pittsburgh.
The speedy forward shares the league’s goal-scoring lead with the Penguins James Neal, with nine goals each.