No rest for Reimer at fan night

Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr celebrates a goal on James Reimer by

Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr celebrates a goal on James Reimer by "Tebowing" during fan appreciation night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 20, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

TORONTO - After making 40 saves the night before in a real game, James Reimer thought Leafs Nation Night would be a lark.

Until he was terrorized by a Dion Phaneuf drive and then ‘Tebowed’ by Colton Orr. But in need of getting his mojo back on home ice, the goaltender wasn’t complaining of the extra work.

On this night, a starter for the Blues team, he stoned the opposition Whites in a 5-0 scrimmage that featured 4-on-4 play with plenty of breakaways. Reimer later halted eight of 10 shootout attempts. The only pucks to beat him came from one of Phaneuf’s widowmaker slap shots that Reimer luckily dove under, and an Orr goal that saw the enforcer mock-celebrate on one knee like Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, counting his heavenly blessings with the ACC horn blaring and a spotlight on him.

“That was pretty funny,” Reimer said, figuring Orr was giving him a friendly dig about his own religious convictions. “He likes to have fun and that’s what a game like this is for. I’ll get him next time.”

Phaneuf certainly wasn’t kidding.

“I was going to stack the pads and then wound up cratering,” Reimer laughed. “I was just hoping he didn’t hit me.

“Maybe my luck has turned. We’ll find out this week.”

Reimer’s big Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings could not prevent a 3-2 shootout loss, dropping him to 1-3-2 since returning from his head injury. Coach Ron Wilson likely will use him against Buffalo on Thursday or at least split the back-to-backs between him and Jonas Gustavsson.

BURKE'S COLD CASE

General manager Brian Burke had a noble intention with his own take on the holiday roster freeze, starting it seven to 10 days earlier than the NHL’s official embargo.

The thought is to let players concentrate on the job at hand, not the fear of uprooting families or banished to bus rides to Binghamton at a time of year when off-ice stress levels can be at their highest.

But the Leafs have a strange way of repaying the boss. In his four years as GM, the team’s record is 12-15-2 from the mid-December point that Burke implements his freeze until Dec. 27, when trades, waivers and loans are once again permitted across the league. That record includes 1-2-2 so far this month.

Toronto has three more games before this month’s freeze thaws.

THIRD TIME LUCKY

Wilson has no doubt tracked his Leafs getting at least one third-period goal in 13 of the past 14 games. Though it hasn’t always translated to wins (6-6-2), it has made for some close games. And if Wilson is looking at the big picture, 38 goals in the final frame so far puts the Leafs on pace for 94 this season, a bump up from 76 in 2010-11.

It’s another indication that 31/2 years into a tenure that has yet to produce a playoff trip, the players aren’t throwing him under the bus.

“It’s not his fault,” defenceman Luke Schenn said as the Leafs try to shake some December hiccups.

That said, it’s still premature to be talking about a contract extension for Wilson, if rumours last week were true. The Leafs have had a market correction the past couple of weeks, which hasn’t dashed playoff hopes, but merely underlined how tight the standings will be until April. If there’s another dark spring, then you have to look at options such as Randy Carlyle or Dallas Eakins.

Schenn was also taking that third-period stat with a grain of salt.

“We’ve been allowing a lot of third-period goals, too,” he said.

COST OF FREEDOM

The barking of scalpers outside the ACC was mostly muted on Tuesday night, a sign the Leafs were successful in preserving free seats to the event for the target audience. But on-line offers for gold tickets to Fan Appreciation Night were starting around $50 and going towards triple figures.

“We wanted to get them in the hands of the fans who don’t get this chance often,” said Bon Hunter, executive vice-president, venues and entertainment, for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “Unfortunately, when something is free, people can do what they want with it. We took all the precautions we could, but we can’t stop everybody (from scalping). We can just monitor it as best we can.”

Some fans took the freebies and did nothing with them. The crowd was estimated between 10,000 and 13,000.


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