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(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Gustavsson or Reimer: Who should the Leafs ride? Add to ...

It was a very laid back day at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility on Thursday, as with no coaches around and no players going on the ice, there were few updates to be found.

The Leafs were, in some sense, being rewarded for a good showing a night earlier in a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and as a result, should be well rested for their next game Saturday in Ottawa.

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One of the big questions facing coach Ron Wilson there is who to play in goal, as Reimer is coming off one of his better games of the season and is very motivated to try and win back the crease.

Jonas Gustavsson, meanwhile, has pretty stellar numbers going back as far as mid-November, even if he was partly to blame for his team's collapse in a 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Reimer was one of only four players to speak with the media on Thursday, and he is anxious to make the battle with Gustavsson a close one over the final 31 games.

"It's been tough to not be able to play," Reimer said. "I felt maybe I wasn't getting the breaks [during games]but you get in there and win a game and have it be a shutout... just to get some of those breaks and get to the end of the game and enjoy it was really nice."

That shutout puts Reimer and Gustavsson's numbers pretty close together on the year, with only a 0.07 difference in goals-against average and a .006 difference in save percentage.

Reimer's numbers have been impacted mainly by very poor statistics on the penalty kill, but with the Leafs taking fewer penalties and playing better when they are a man down, it's likely his save percentage, etc., will begin to shift upward.

(Reimer's even strength save percentage of .934 is actually top 10 in the league and ahead of the likes of Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi. Gustavsson has a mediocre .914. With the Leafs not taking penalties of late, it may make some sense to play Reimer.)

That said, his last start against the Sens ended with Reimer allowing a bad goal for the winner in the third, and Gustavsson has started the vast majority of the games during Toronto's 8-4-1 run here in the New Year.

Ottawa will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday and could potentially be caught in the standings in that game, so it almost goes without saying it's a big one.

Wilson was not made available to the media Thursday, however, and Reimer hasn't been told who's starting. My sense is that it'll be Gustavsson, but we should have a better idea after practice on Friday.

While he supports Gustavsson when he's playing, Reimer made it clear he hopes he'll be the guy Wilson turns to.

"We both want to play and we both want to play our best," Reimer said. "But we're sane human beings too. We hang out and we realize there's more to the game [than fighting with one another] He's a good guy; he supports me when I'm in there and I do my best to support him.

"When it comes down to it, it's a team game. And we want the team to succeed more than our personal games ... [but]whenever your counterpart is playing well, you always want to outplay him, you always want to work harder. When he's playing so well, it [challenges]you to bring your game to a higher level."

Leafs projected lineup

The only changes you can likely expect to Toronto's lineup for Saturday will be on the back end and in goal, as Wilson may opt to shift Mike Komisarek and Gustavsson back in. Here's my best guess as to what the lineup will look like:

MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lupul - Bozak - Kessel Lombardi - Connolly - Crabb Brown - Steckel - Armstrong

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Liles - Franson Gardiner - Schenn

Gustavsson

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