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Maple Leafs assign Bernier to AHL for conditioning

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Toronto Maple Leafs assigned goaltender Jonathan Bernier to Toronto of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment Wednesday.

The assignment will last 10 days, according to Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. Bernier is 0-8-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .888 save percentage with the Maple Leafs. He was 21-28-7 in 58 games last season to go with a 2.87 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Babcock anticipates Bernier, 27, who has not played in the AHL since 2010 when he was a Los Angeles Kings prospect, will play four of a possible six games for the Marlies, who visit Rochester on Friday to start three games in three days.

The move offers Bernier a chance to assume a regular workload. He has played twice since Oct. 31, allowing four goals in each of the two starts.

"[Bernier] wants to get back in a game," Babcock said. "We want him to get back in a game. We feel this is best for our team so that he can find his way back to being the goalie that he is capable of being for the Leafs.

"He's no different than the rest of us. We all want to be good at our job and feel good about ourselves. When things aren't going good, there is a gamut of responses that you go through. We need to get him feeling good about himself, being confident and helping us win games, so that's the process we're going through."

Bernier had to consent to the assignment and did.

"I knew it could happen," Bernier said after participating in the Maple Leafs morning skate at MTS Centre prior to their game Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets. "It's not something you wish for, but I've just got to make the best of it.

"I think I wasn't going to play soon here. [Babcock] thought it was the right way to go right now too."

Bernier's AHL assignment is the latest change in the Maple Leafs' goaltending situation. Rookie Garret Sparks won his NHL debut this past Monday after being recalled from the AHL and will start against the Jets.

James Reimer, who has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury, will back up Sparks in Winnipeg. He is expected to start Thursday when the Maple Leafs visit the Minnesota Wild.

"I feel pretty good. Ready to go," Reimer said after the morning skate.

"The plan is fluid and can change at any point," Reimer said of starting Thursday. "But it's probably what is penciled in."

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