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Challenge Awaits Monster Against Penguins

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

One of the words of the decade is the word of the day for Jonas Gustavsson.


Tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins Gustavsson makes his fourth consecutive start for James Reimer, a victim of whiplash after a collision with Brian Gionta a week ago in Montreal.

Gustavsson won two of four games on the road but carries a lamentable 4.08 goals against average and .876 save percentage into tonight’s contest.

Gustavsson has gone from the guy people tripped over when seeking James Reimer to the nucleus of the media scrum. He takes any turn of fortune in stride.

“Of course, it’s weird. One day you are right in the middle and the next day you are looking at the other guy,” he said. “That’s a part of it. You just have to deal with whatever the situation is. You’re part of a team no matter what role you are having that day.”

It was put to Gustavsson that if goalies push each other in practice, the goalie who plays represents the guy who helped make him better. Gustavsson, another amenable Swede, agreed.

“That’s a clever way to put it. There’s always a competition going on between goalies. The goalie that gets the honour to play obviously did a good job. It’s a team game and two goalies belong to the same team.”

In poker, it’s called a tell, a physical clue that alerts opponents and teammates that a goalie is on his game. It can be puckhandling or rebound control. For Gustavsson, the gap between playing well and playing poorly is measured in fractions of a second.

“It’s timing. No matter how much you practice, the speed will be different,” he said. “Timing, being in the right position at the right time, reading the play, being on time, that’s going to help you make the game easier. “

Briefly:  Tonight is captain’s night. Former captain Mats Sundin makes his first appearance as a retired player tonight. Meanwhile, former Leaf captain Wendel Clark will shave off his trademark moustache tonight in support of Movember…The Leafs will not have to face two of the Penguins’ three premier centremen. Sidney Crosby is still rounding his way into shape after a layoff due to concussion. Jordan Staal, a six-goal scorer this season, is injured and will not play against the Leafs. Staal left Thursday’s game against the Islanders after a collision with John Tavares but came back and played the rest of the contest.  Leafs’ goalie James Reimer practiced. He can come off the injured reserve list on Sunday. If Gustavsson plays well against the Penguins, Leafs coach Ron Wilson will go back to him Sunday in Ottawa. The Leafs have dressed Ben Scrivens as a back-up. ..If Dion Phaneuf continues his outstanding early-season play, he has a booster for the Norris Trophy in defence partner Carl Gunnarsson.  Phaneuf’s most tangible quality, Gunnarsson said, is his consistency. “I have played with guys who aren’t predictable, guys who come over on my side when the other team is on the rush. If you don’t know what your partner is doing, it makes it hard. “… Wilson was pleased in Tim Connolly’s first game back in the lineup, Thursday in New York. “He said he had no legs in the third period so his shifts were pretty short. Until he gets everything under him, the shifts are going to be shorter and I can’t use him in some situations as much as I’d like.”
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