It's the Monster's mesh

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson is congratulated by teammate James Reimer (L) after...

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson is congratulated by teammate James Reimer (L) after their win against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto Jan., 3, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 AM ET

TORONTO - Win and stay in.

With that in mind, Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal for the Maple Leafs on Thursday night when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Air Canada Centre.

For now, and this could change tomorrow, Leafs coach Ron Wilson has thrown his support behind Gustavsson, who has been maligned for poor play at times this season and lauded at others for sharp performances.

“Right now, I think the Monster gives us as good a chance to win (as James Reimer does),” Wilson said after the Leafs practised in the cold January air before hundreds of fans at the outdoor Sunnyvale Acres Rink in Rexdale.

“As long as he is winning, he is going to keep playing. If Reims goes in there and he gets hot, he is going to play. We need to win games.”

As much as there has been consternation about the penalty-kill (rightfully so, and one good game in that area is not nearly enough), the fact remains the Leafs require better goaltending if they’re going to make a serious playoff charge. In the so-close-you-can-taste-it Eastern Conference, a game that has won every so often because of superior netminding would go a long way. The Leafs were in 10th before NHL games on Wednesday night with 43 points, but they were just three points behind the fifth-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

Where Gustavsson and Reimer are concerned, Wilson’s hope is that each of his goalies can be his No. 1 guy, whether it’s for a couple of games or more.

How important is it, Wilson was asked, for one to establish himself over the other in the second half of the regular season?

“I want both the goalies to be playing well and I am comfortable with either one,” Wilson, decked out in sunglasses, tuque and balaclava, said. “We’ll end up with times when we have to use both of our goalies. If somebody goes down with an injury, your other goalie has to be ready to step in.”

That has happened already, as both Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens won games when Reimer was knocked out of the lineup with concussion-like symptoms on Oct. 22 versus the Montreal Canadiens.

Still, the sense is that people would be breathing a little easier in Leafland had Reimer come back from his injury and been at the top of his game. It has been a month, though, and Reimer has been inconsistent on his way to recording a 3-4-3 mark since returning on Dec. 3. During that time, Gustavsson is 2-2.

Perhaps a little more telling is that of his 15 starts, Gustavsson has won 10, including a 7-3 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. Reimer has started 17 games and skated off as the winning goalie seven times.

“When you get the chance, you need to step up and take it,” Gustavsson said. “The coach always wants to play a guy who is hot, and that just makes you want to work hard.

“You always have to go to yourself and see what you can do. It’s boring to hear, but it’s about going to the rink every day and being positive, being happy and working hard. You can’t focus on other players and other goalies and what everyone is saying.

“You know the season is long. It’s 82 games in the regular season and if you don’t play for two or three games in a row, you can’t feel like the season is over. Everything goes so quick in this business, you can be in one day and the next day you are out.”

Reimer didn’t hear those comments from Gustavsson, but you have to figure they are words he would heed. Reimer is hard on himself in the minutes after a game, often putting blame on his shoulders with interviews with the media if he has just been in net for a Leafs loss.

But as the last cheering fans made their way back to their vehicles on Wednesday in the blocks surrounding the Leafs’ home for a day, Reimer was not upset about sitting, again.

“We want to win, and that’s all that matters to me and Gus,” Reimer said. “If he is in and wins, let’s go with it. I just have to play well when my chance comes up.”

GAME PASSED ORR BY?

The National Hockey League game, apparently, officially passed by Colton Orr on Wednesday.

The Leafs placed Orr, whose job is to fight and not much else, on waivers. If he clears, he will be sent to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

“We have a lot of guys coming back (from injuries) and the game has changed a little bit,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “He has not had many opportunities this year, now it’s (time) to go down (to the Marlies) and play. He can play in all situations that he normally would not be playing in up here.”

Why Orr would play ahead of any young Marlies forwards is unclear.

That Orr has been placed on waivers was no shock. Even when other Leafs were injured, he could not get into the lineup.

In the NHL today, something more than just a willingness to drop the gloves has to be brought to the table.

The 29-year-old Orr has played in just five games for the Leafs this season, scoring one goal and fighting once. He missed the final 36 games last season after suffering a concussion in a fight with George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks. In 378 NHL games, Orr has 11 goals, nine assists and 921 penalty minutes.

Orr is making $1 million US this season, and will draw the same salary in 2012-13.

Orr did not return a message left on his phone on Wednesday. Leafs general manager Brian Burke did not respond to questions sent in an e-mail.


Videos

Photos