NEW YORK – Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer doesn’t remember if he was tabbed to start against the New York Rangers on Oct. 27, 2011, but he knows he was definitely supposed to dress.
Reimer took part in the team’s morning skate that day, but was scratched with what was believed to be whiplash issues before later being diagnosed with a concussion near the end of the season. The Maple Leafs recalled Ben Scrivens to back up Jonas Gustavsson for that contest and Reimer didn’t see the ice again until early December.
More than a year later, Reimer will likely get a chance to make his Madison Square Garden debut against the Rangers on Saturday night. Reimer was the first goaltender off the ice at practice while Scrivens stayed longer for extra work.
Reimer was expected to be the No. 1 goaltender in Toronto this season, but rumors swirled that the Maple Leafs would acquire Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks. That trade wasn't consummated by the start of this season and Scrivens was given the Leafs’ first two starts. Four games into the 2012-13 campaign, he has made three starts compared to one for Reimer.
Reimer fared well in his one start, stopping 28 of 30 shots in a 5-2 road victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But it wasn’t enough for coach Randy Carlyle to start him the following night against the New York Islanders, a game in which Scrivens allowed five goals on 20 shots in a 7-4 loss.
Without consistent playing time, Reimer said he wasn’t necessarily working harder in practices, just doing more work in practices.
"Me and Scrivs, we’re good friends and we’re both competitive. In practice, you’re always competing. It definitely motivates you, regardless of who plays. Any time you have a goalie of his caliber that you can measure yourself to, it makes you a better goalie," Reimer said. "With this splitting time, you get more time in practice to work on your game and get better and that’s what I’ve tried to do.
"I don’t know if you work harder. Every day I come to the rink and work as hard as I can. That’s what makes you a good player, is your work ethic. When you’re not playing, the only thing is work longer. You work with the same intensity, but you just stay out on the ice longer."
The Maple Leafs are looking for a solution on their top line with Joffrey Lupul out six weeks with a fractured forearm. Here are the lines they displayed during their Saturday morning practice, along with potential defense pairings, with Jake Gardiner sent to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and Cody Franson a scratch.
Clarke MacArthur – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Matt Frattin
Colton Orr – Jay McClement – Mike Brown
Dion Phaneuf – Mike Kostka
Carl Gunnarsson – Mark Fraser
John-Michael Liles – Mike Komisarek
Fraser and Komisarek should be in the lineup for Gardiner and Franson. With Dave Steckel a scratch, Brown slides onto the fourth line.