After a long wait, Jonas Gustavsson gets his chance in goal.
The Toronto Maple Leafs backup hasn't started a game since Dec. 17 and was given just two starts total in December, a month during which the Leafs went 4-6-3 with James Reimer carrying the bulk of the load.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson indicated on Monday, however, that his goaltenders will now begin sharing the load more, something that begins with Gustavsson starting Tuesday at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If he plays well, it's likely he starts Thursday, too.
Gustavsson has had a rocky NHL career to date, but he was decent in November prior to Reimer taking over, posting a 5-2-0 record and .907 save percentage in the month.
"He had found his confidence," Wilson said. "He was attacking pucks. He started to handle pucks better ... He started to really get that.
"Hopefully he can step in there, he hasn't played in a while, and feel good about himself. Make a couple saves early and have something to build some confidence off of."
The Leafs and Lightning have both had issues in goal this season, with Toronto currently 25th in team save percentage and Tampa tied for 27th.
The Lightning will start Mathieu Garon, who entered the season as the backup but has appeared in 15 of the last 17 games because of Dwayne Roloson's struggles.
"We've had tons of injuries, one right after the other," Lightning coach Guy Boucher offered as an explanation. "It's been tough. I think he got caught in that and he didn't have the start that he was hoping he'd have. He's okay. He's been battling hard. He's had great practices.
"It's been a very, very trying year for everybody."
Tampa is only four points back of Toronto and has a game in hand, which should make this a fairly competitive game. Factor in that the Lightning have won three in a row and the Leafs have only four wins in their last 14 games, and Toronto will have its work cut out to pull out a win.
The other thing to keep an eye on is that this is the first of a huge string of home games for the Leafs, who will spend most of January at the Air Canada Centre. Wilson said Tuesday he believes that playing so often at home gives his team a little bit of an advantage.
"You should know your ice, the board bounces and things like that," Wilson said. "But it's up to us to determine home-ice advantage and go out and play well.
"It seems here in Toronto that you don't get very many teams that come in and have an off night. Everybody gets fired up to play in Toronto, in Montreal, so your advantage is taken away a little bit."
- Wilson said Colby Armstrong remains at least a week to 10 days away from returning from a concussion. Armstrong skated briefly on his own before the team's morning skate.
- Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman is not on their current road trip as he battles a concussion that sounds relatively serious. Ryan Malone is out after suffering an injury in practice on Monday. And Nate Thompson said he is a game-time decision.
Leafs projected lineup
Lupul - Connolly - Kessel Crabb - Grabovski - Kulemin MacArthur - Lombardi - Kadri Steckel - Boyce - Frattin
Aulie - Phaneuf Gunnarsson - Schenn Gardiner - Franson