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These masked men bring hope to teams

by Brian Compton
Toronto fans hope the acquisition of Vesa Toskala takes their Maple Leafs to the next level.
More often than not, the goaltender is the missing piece for a team that’s stuck between the playoff bubble and a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

Patrick Roy was that missing piece for the Colorado Avalanche, helping the franchise win its first Stanley Cup after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in 1995. Ed Belfour got the Dallas Stars over the hump by backstopping the club to a title in 1999.

With that in mind, reminds hockey’s rabid fans of the top goalies who have changed addresses since the end of last season, as teams aim to move into the upper echelon of the League:

David Aebischer, Phoenix Coyotes -- After a disappointing season with the Montreal Canadiens (13-12-3 in 32 games), the 29-year-old signed a one-year deal in July with the Coyotes with hopes of showing everyone that he’s still a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.

In six professional seasons – mostly spent in Colorado – the Swiss netminder has a career record of 106-73-17 with a 2.51 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins After 260 games and 113 victories with the Minnesota Wild, Fernandez has landed in Beantown. The 33-year-old was dealt to the Bruins on the first day of free agency (July 1) in exchange for right wing Petr Kalus and a fourth-round pick in 2009.

Fernandez should split time with Tim Thomas, who won 30 games for a Boston squad that featured five different netminders last season. That shouldn’t happen again now that the Bruins have two capable goaltenders.

Mathieu Garon, Edmonton Oilers -- Dwayne Roloson will likely get the bulk of thestarts for the Oilers, but Garon should be a more-than-capable backup.

Signed as a free agent on July 3, the 29-year-old made 95 appearances with the Los Angeles Kings over the last two seasons, winning 44 games. The former second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens (1996) can certainly do an adequate job of filling in for Roloson when needed.

Vesa Toskala, Toronto Maple Leafs -- After failing to reach the postseason, the Leafs traded their first and second-round draft picks in 2007 (and a fourth-rounder in 2009) to the San Jose Sharks to land the 30-year old Finn.

Toskala, who will split time with Andrew Raycroft, went 26-10-1 with a 2.35 GAA and four shutouts for the Sharks last season. His arrival gives Toronto a formidable 1-2 punch between the pipes as it looks to avenge last season’s failure to reach the playoffs.

Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers -- The former ninth-round selection of the Montreal Canadiens heads to the Sunshine State following a solid eight-year run with the Nashville Predators. Vokoun was dealt to Florida on June 22 for three draft picks.

The 31-year-old instantly becomes the Panthers’ No. 1 goaltender as Ed Belfour, who was in the same capacity last season, is playing overseas in 2007-08. Vokoun is coming off a 27-win season with Nashville as he posted a 2.40 GAA and .920 save percentage. He also recorded a career-high five shutouts.

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