So much for the slow part of the Toronto Maple Leafs schedule.
Starting Wednesday at home against the Winnipeg Jets, the Leafs will play seven games in the next 12 days leading up to Hallowe'en, a stretch that includes a four-game road trip against good Eastern Conference teams and two sets of back-to-backs.
Coach Ron Wilson said at practice Tuesday that backup Jonas Gustavsson will start either against Winnipeg or Thursday in Boston, giving him his first action of the season and his first NHL start since he imploded in a 7-1 loss in New York in January.
"Gustavsson's going to play one of the games," Wilson said.
Those are two very different opponents, but either way, this will be a big game for Gustavsson to reassert himself. He's clearly the No. 2 on this team behind James Reimer, but Wilson's shown a willingness to ride one goaltender if he feels the backup can't get the job done.
If Gustavsson plays well, he will earn more starts in the Leafs' 17 back-to-back games (tied for second-most in the league). If he struggles in his first few starts, Reimer could be looking at 65-plus games on the year.
"I'm looking forward to that next game," Gustavsson said Tuesday after practice. "We'll see when that is. Until then, I'm just trying to be patient and work hard."
So I'll put that question to you: How many games is the right number for Reimer, a young goalie who hasn't played more than 40 all that often going back to junior? Or does it depend on how capable Gustavsson proves to be?
- Wilson was mum on lineup changes, but rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner said he believes he will play against the Jets. "It's more numbers than his play," Wilson said. "We just tell him to work hard in practice and stay focused and when you go in don't change anything about what you've done. You didn't do anything that resulted in you coming out of the lineup so just keep playing the same way."
- What Wilson would say is that Nazem Kadri (knee sprain) is almost healthy but won't be going on the team's road trip when it starts Thursday. It's expected Kadri will be sent to the Marlies in the near future as the Leafs have liked what they've seen from Matt Frattin. "He's really had a number of scoring chances," Wilson said. "Next to Phil, probably the most on our team."
- Tim Connolly (upper body) was practising with the team Tuesday and should also be ready in the next week or so.
- Wilson on Luke Schenn's early season struggles, which have been evident in his declining ice time in the past couple games: "He's had trouble starting games. I think Luke's put a lot of pressure on himself. He's just got to relax. He'll be fine."
- Wilson on the team's 2-for-21 power play: "I thought last night we moved the puck well and had some great scoring opportunities but the puck didn't go in. [We'll]just stick to what we're doing. Yesterday we got to the front of the net, the game before we didn't, so we just have to find a way to get a few more shots from the point and stop thinking and worrying about certain things. The power play's going to come together eventually here."
Full audio from Wilson's scrum Tuesday is below.