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Raycroft, Key to Leafs Success

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
September 15, 2006

Hal Gill is welcome face for Raycroft in the Maple Leafs locker room. - Getty Images
TORONTO (CP) -- Andrew Raycroft was happy to see former Boston teammate Hal Gill when the Toronto Maple Leafs opened their NHL training camp Thursday.

"I'm going to let him get lost first,'' Raycroft kidded as he felt his way around Ricoh Coliseum.

The Leafs' new No. 1 goaltender and towering defenceman Gill were merely two of many new faces. There was veteran centre Mike Peca and Czech defenceman Pavel Kubina, too.

Gone are Tie Domi, Ed Belfour, Eric Lindros, Jason Allison and Aki Berg as the rebuilt Leafs look to get back to the playoffs they missed last spring.

The newcomer most Leafs fans will be watching the closest will be Raycroft. They'll want to want if he's the Calder Trophy winner of 2004 or the slumping goalie the Bruins gave up on last season.

"Last year things didn't go the way I wanted so I've got incentive to do better,'' said the 26-year-old native of Belleville, Ont. "You have something to prove every year.

"It's a new city, new everything. I've got a clean slate. I've worked hard for the last three or four weeks and I'm feeling comfortable on the ice. (Friday) when we get on the ice with the coaches, that's when you know summer is over.''

Some Leafs fans consider installing Raycroft as No. 1 is a gamble. He dodged the concept.

"I don't play poker,'' he said. "I don't mind a little bit of blackjack once in awhile but I'm not a gambler.''

A nagging leg injury bothered him last year, but that's in the past.

"Everything is healthy and I'm good to go,'' he said.

Intense scrutiny in a hockey-mad metropolis won't bother him, he says.

"It's nice to have this much buzz going into training camp,'' he said. "In Boston, at this time of year everybody in the past everybody was into the Red Sox battling to get to the World Series and our camps didn't get as much attention as this.''

He has more time for the media than did predecessor Ed Belfour. This, of course, could change quickly should he lose soon and lose often, but he doesn't plan on doing that.

GM John Ferguson suggested the team could start the regular season with three goalies. J.S. Aubin and Mikael Tellqvist will be competing for the backup job and the club's top goaltending prospect, Justin Pogge, already is tabbed to be No. 1 with the AHL Marlies.

Peca has never been shy to deal with the media, and he was at his best on the opening day of camp. He was smiling, joking around with reporters, and generally loving every minute of his first day at camp with the NHL team in his home city.

"I know what it's like,'' he said of the media attention in Canada's largest city. "As you'll find, I have no problem with it.''

Meanwhile, the team announced the signing of forward Matt Stajan to a $1.75-million, two-year deal. Stajan had 15 goals and 12 assists last season.

"I'm just glad to get it done so I can concentrate on training camp,'' said the 22-year-old native of neighbouring Mississauga.

He's up to 200 pounds now that he's added some muscle.

Stajan, Alex Steen (18 goals) and Kyle Wellwood (11 goals) are three young players Ferguson is counting on to up production.

Some Grade-A goaltending from Raycroft would help at the other end of the ice.


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