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Red-hot Leafs sticking with Reimer in goal

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After missing nearly a month with a groin injury, Jean-Sebastien Giguere is healthy and ready to resume his post as the No. 1 goalie in Toronto.

But don't look for Giguere in the Maple Leafs' net Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. And there is no need to monitor the Toronto airports looking for James Reimer return to the minor-league Marlies either.

The 22-year-old has won three road games during a run of five straight by Toronto on enemy ice and will be back between the pipes when the Leafs go for their first four-game sweep of a road trip in 10 years against a Phoenix team that has points in six straight games (4-0-2) and is feeling pretty good about itself as well.

Reimer, who has made the climb from fourth-round draft pick through the ECHL  and then up to the AHL Marlies, has a 2.34 goals-against average in his last three wins. His only loss in five starts was 2-1 to Boston -- a game in which he played well.

Giguere, who will serve as the backup against the Coyotes and dress for the first time since Dec. 16, hasn't fared well against Phoenix lately (0-1-5 in his last seven starts), making the case for sticking with the kid even stronger.

"Jiggy's ready and he wants to play, but logic clearly states right now that James Reimer has played well and deserves the opportunity to play," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "The same goes for both (Giguere and current odd-man out Jonas Gustavsson) when they get on the run. Every coach will ride a hot hand when it's there and I'd be a fool not to stick with the hot hand."

When asked for a more in-depth answer to Reimer's recent success, Wilson kept it simple: "He stops the puck. There is nothing more to it than that."

Giguere is itching to play, but he understands Wilson's decision and isn't so old that he remembers being the hot young goalie himself.

"We all wait for that one day when we get a chance. For some guys, it's one chance, for others its two or three or four chances," Giguere said. "This is really Riem's first big chance and he's definitely making the most of it -- and it's not by luck.

"People have to realize the work he's put in when he was in the minors, He's worked extremely hard with (goalie coach Francois Allaire), thinking 'this may be my only chance in the NHL and I have to seize it.' When you do your homework and prepare well, it makes your tests much easier."

"He stops the puck. There is nothing more to it than that."
-- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson

The Leafs are still 11 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will need a much longer winning streak for things to really get interesting. But the pulse of the dressing room has quickened and Reimer's play is a big reason why.

"He's got a lot of confidence right now and when the goalie is confident, the team follows along," said Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur, who has 4 goals and 6 points during the first three stops on this trip -- wins at Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose. "We're feeding off him. He's made timely saves in every game, come up big in tough penalty kills where he's had to make two or three big saves. It's his time right now and he's going really well."

Toronto will get right wing Mike Brown back tonight after missing 19 games with a broken finger. Brown will replace ex-Coyote Fredrik Sjostrom in the lineup and Wilson feels Brown's return will only strengthen a penalty killing unit that is 12-for-12 on the trip.

"(Brown's) shot has been fine for a couple of weeks," Wilson said. "We've been waiting until we're sure that the bone in his hand is knit and it is. This happened to (Rangers captain) Chris Drury and he came back after four weeks and played against us and re-broke it in the same spot. It's been a good six weeks (for Brown) and there is no fear of him re-breaking it."
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