The James Reimer show will continue Saturday in Ottawa.
Though Jonas Gustavsson didn’t really do anything wrong in the vast majority of January starts, coach Ron Wilson could not find a reason not to come back with Reimer against the Senators after a 25-save, 1-0 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
It was likely one of Wilson’s tougher calls this year, but any chance the Leafs have of making the playoffs with this tandem will hang on both goalies being game-sharp at a moment’s notice. Wilson has made some alterations to his ‘win-and-stay-in’ policy of a few weeks ago.
“It’s who we feel most comfortable with and who is playing well and Reims deserves to back up the shutout he got,” Wilson said Friday at the MasterCard Centre.
“That’s Motivation 101. You play well, you deserve to play a little bit more, whether it’s a forward, defenceman or in this case, a goaltender. Reimer won the game, he was perfect in the game.”
Well not quite, as the Penguins came awfully close with posts and crossbars.
Wilson might also be setting the table for a back-to-back early next week against Edmonton and Winnipeg. If Reimer is anything less than spectacular, Gustavsson could play at home Monday against the Oilers, while Reimer gets a second chance in his home province, following a New Year’s Eve loss to the Jets. Reimer has learned not to look too far ahead.
“My Mom actually called me last night to ask about tickets (for Tuesday) and I was like ‘when are we in Winnipeg, that’s three games away.' That would be a big game. It didn’t quite (work out last time), but it was a lot of fun to play.
"Then again, who knows how the rotation will work?”
Saturday’s next chapter in the Battle of Ontario has lots of playoff ramifications. Once more, the Sens are handicapped playing the night before, but that hasn’t stopped them taking a 3-1 lead in the series.
Toronto has won four of its last six games, but with little input from top scorers Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. In the past 10 games, they have just eight points. The duo were in Ottawa last weekend with captain Dion Phaneuf for the all-star game, where Lupul said the constant booing of the blue and white was both surprising and motivating.
“It actually might have made the weekend more memorable,” Lupul said. “I expect the same treatment tomorrow. Ideally, we’d like to play a playoff series against them.”
Both Lupul and Wilson were not bothered by the recent scoring data.
“The puck hasn’t gone in for them, but what’s our record in the last 10 games?” Wilson said. “It’s pretty good (5-4-1). We’re getting the goals we need, we’re playing sound defence.
“We did a lot of work on our power play today. That’s something that with (defenceman) John-Michael Liles back in, we hope will improve, and that will give those (two) an offensive boost as well.
“They’re getting shots, they’re getting scoring chances, it’s just one of those times where the well is a little dry," he said. "They get a goal here and there and their confidence will bloom, just as it has for Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur in the past couple of weeks.
“(Lupul and Kessel) haven’t allowed as many goals against and when you’re not scoring, make sure the other team doesn’t when you’re on the ice. Goal scoring is cyclical with most players in our league," Wilson said. "I’m sure they’ll come out of it.”
Wilson plans no other lineup changes, ths defenceman Mike Komisarek will sit again.