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Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson's frustration with his team's poor defensive play is boiling over. He expects to see some improvement or he'll make personnel changes to get the desired results.
Wilson looks for a better defensive effort from the Maple Leafs, who have lost four in a row going into their first meeting in more than two years with the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
The Maple Leafs (17-23-8) have given up a league-high 174 goals, and Wilson's first move to try and improve the team's defense was to call up goaltender Justin Pogge from Toronto's AHL club.
Pogge, 22, was scheduled to return to the minors after starting the Leafs' game Tuesday night regardless of how he performed. The rookie, however, had little chance to make a case to stay in the NHL due to the sloppy play in front of him in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota.
Pogge, considered the team's top prospect, made 15 saves and had virtually no chance on all four Wild goals in the second period.
The lopsided loss was just the latest poor defensive performance for Toronto this season, and Wilson is reaching the point of exasperation.
"We have a lot of guys that have to show a lot more pride in their performance defensively than they're showing," he said.
"Right now it's a garden full of weeds and I need to pick some weeds. It's as simple as that."
The Maple Leafs have been outscored 16-7 during their four-game losing streak, and have lost eight of nine.
With Pogge returning to the AHL, struggling veteran Vesa Toskala is expected to be back in net Thursday. Toskala has lost his last three starts and is 2-8-2 with a 3.73 goals-against average since Dec. 23.
Toskala has not faced the Avalanche since 2006 when he was with the Sharks. He's 3-3-0 with one tie and a 2.56 GAA in nine games against them.
Colorado and Toronto haven't met since the Avalanche's 4-1 win Oct. 18, 2006, behind two goals from John-Michael Liles. The Avs have won their last three home games against the Maple Leafs since a 3-2 loss March 29, 1997.
The Avalanche (23-24-1) are halfway through an eight-game homestand that hasn't gone well. They've lost three of their first four in the stretch.
After scoring 11 goals in its previous two games, Colorado lost to San Jose 3-0 on Tuesday. The Avalanche have dropped five of six since a three-game winning streak.
Despite its recent struggles, Colorado is only four points out of a playoff spot.
"It's frustrating. We need all the points we can get right now," Colorado's Brett Clark said. "Little mistakes here and there. If we can eliminate those, we're going to be OK."
The Avs have also suffered from a shaky situation in goal of late.
Andrew Raycroft, who stopped 35 shots Tuesday, has posted a 3.12 GAA in losing his last four games, while Peter Budaj is 1-4-0 with a 3.89 GAA in six starts since Dec. 31.
Raycroft, who was in goal for Toronto in its last meeting with Colorado, is 3-5-1 with a 2.73 GAA in nine starts versus his former team.
Budaj made 27 saves in the win over Toronto in October 2006, his only career start against the Leafs.
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