Reimer out, Monster in against Wild

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson makes a save on the Buffalo Sabres in the first period...

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson makes a save on the Buffalo Sabres in the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto January 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

It looks like the James Reimer experiment is over — at least for a game anyway.

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson has elected to go back to Swedish keeper Jonas Gustavsson against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Defenceman Mike Komisarek and forward Nazem Kadri will also be back in the lineup for the Leafs after being banished to the press box for one game, Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Tough guy Jay Rosehill, who came in for some added muscle against the physical Senators, is being yanked in favour of Kadri, while Keith Aulie likely will be the odd man out on defence.

After letting in a couple of questionable goals against Ottawa, Reimer (7-5-4, 3.01 GAA, .899 SV%) is being pulled in favour of Gustavsson, who had made six consecutive starts before Wilson put Reimer in Tuesday. It was Reimer’s first start since a 3-2 New Year’s Eve loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Reimer only faced 21 shots against the Senators but allowed three goals as the Leafs blew a two-goal lead despite peppering Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson with 39 shots.

Gustsavsson (13-9-0, 2.92 GAA, .906 SV%), meanwhile, had been very steady in his six consecutive starts despite dropping the final two games before being replaced by Reimer.

“I think over the last two or three weeks he has performed the best. Period,” Wilson said when asked after the Leafs’ morning skate on Thursday why he was putting Gustavsson in net against the Wild.

“Right now I’m just thinking about this game, getting two points,” Gustavsson replied when ask how it felt to be back in net so quickly. “Of course it feels good to play and I’m excited and ready. I feel like I have lots of energy right now.”

Getting two points is something the Leafs need to desperately do after dropping three consecutive games for their longest losing streak of the year. They have four games remaining before the all-star break and have to take advantage of playing three of those at home.

Perhaps playing the Wild, a team that has dropped 14 of its past 16 games, might be just what the doctor ordered. Not only are the Wild in free-fall, they are also missing some key players, with important forwards Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse all injured.

Leaving nothing up to chance, though, Wilson has shuffled the deck in an attempt to get some better defence from his team.

First-line forwards Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, who were on the ice for Ottawa’s winning goal, have been split up, with Lupul moving down to the third line to play with Tim Connolly and Kadri, while speedy forward Matthew Lombardi has been bumped up to take Lupul’s spot on the wing.

“We’ve been together as a group all year, we know each other pretty well,” Lombardi said of taking top-line duties. “Obviously we haven’t played much with each other but you see each other in practice every day and watch each other in games, so we kind of know each other’s tendencies.

"Just keep it simple off the bat and build off that.”

Lupul said he wasn’t surprised he and Kessel are being split up, at least to start this game.

“We haven’t been getting the job done since, probably, the last four or five games,” Lupul said. “It’s not uncommon for things to get changed up. It’s not to say we’re going to be on different lines forever but that’s how it is now and that’s all right.”

The Leafs have also shifted their defensive pairings with captain Dion Phaneuf skating alongside Luke Schenn, rookie Jake Gardiner getting paired with the returning Komisarek, and Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson working together.

It’s a nice birthday present for Komisarek, who turns 30 today, to get back into the lineup.

“Just having better communication, making sure I’m not getting mixed up back there is important,” Komisarek said of his return.


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