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Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to get his first NHL start against Sens

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to get his first NHL start against Sens

The Canadian Press
By:

TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs are turning to The Monster.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson has decided to start Jonas Gustavsson in goal against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

There was no long-term plan to give Gustavsson his first start in this game, but the coach made the decision after his team was beaten twice with Vesa Toskala in goal.

"Surprisingly, I don't have anything pencilled in for the goalies," said Wilson. "I don't operate that way. I just think it's a logical time for him to get a start. It's nothing more than a start."

It certainly means a little more than that to Gustavsson as it will be his first in an NHL game. The 24-year-old Swede signed as a free agent with the Maple Leafs over the summer.

He chose Toronto over several other NHL suitors, arriving in the city with big expectations from the team's rabid fanbase. Many of them have already filled radio call-in shows with calls for him to become the No. 1 goalie.

"I don't know if I'm a favourite," said Gustavsson. "I haven't played anything here yet. I mean, I've played a couple of periods and a practice game. That's too early.

"I guess it's because of you guys writing a lot about me. Of course you want to make the fans happy. If you play good, probably they're going to stay happy."

The six-foot-three Gustavsson was first called "The Monster" by his coach in Farjestad last season. He started the year as a backup before leading the team to a Swedish championship.

The only other time he received attention similar to what he's getting now is during his fantastic run through the Swedish league playoffs.

"Back home, during playoffs, it's something every day," said Gustavsson. "Here it's like the playoffs every day. That's the big difference. But I don't mind, it's part of our job to handle media."

Toskala was in goal for Toronto's first two regular season games and was pulled during a 6-4 loss in Washington on Saturday night. He seemed agitated on Tuesday morning when asked about being replaced.

"If I can decide, I play every game," said Toskala. "(The coach) decides who plays so I have nothing to say."

Wilson has sympathy for the Finn, who is still recovering from groin and hip surgery in the off-season.

The coach has spent a couple days pointing out that poor defensive play is to blame for the losses just as much as Toskala's play.

"I feel bad for Vesa that he's being put in this position when he hasn't done anything wrong," said Wilson. "He's a good goalie and he's going to work hard in practice. He might start the next game, he might not. I can't tell you.

"I trust that he'll get the job done. If he was racehorse you would say he's not in form (yet)."

Wilson has made that known to his current No. 1 goalie.

"I talked to Vesa, but again, he's not playing tonight - I didn't think he was going to play 82 games this year," he said. "So this is our third game and The Monster's getting a start. It's nothing more than that."

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Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to get his first NHL start against Sens