Three goalies. Two nets.
That's never an ideal situation for any NHL team's practice, especially when there are young players in need of playing time.
But there they were for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday afternoon, with rookie James Reimer recalled from the minors to share a goal with veteran Jean-Sébastien Giguère and the struggling Jonas Gustavsson by his lonesome at the other end of the ice.
Most eyes were on Gustavsson, who has quickly become a focal point after a trying month in which Reimer may have surpassed him on the depth chart.
"It's not something that's common for sure, especially when everybody's healthy," Giguère said of having three goalies. "So it's a bit of a different situation. Only one guy can play."
The only pressing injury among the three netminders, however, has been one to Gustavsson's confidence, which has been shaken in his second NHL season. Since being pulled from a 5-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in early December, the 26-year-old Swede has looked uncertain in the crease, culminating in an ugly 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
All three goaltenders flew to Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday. Giguère will start against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, and Reimer will play against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
General manager Brian Burke declined to comment on Gustavsson's immediate future, but it's clear the team is at least contemplating sending him to the Toronto Marlies on a two-week conditioning stint following this weekend's all-star break.
The league would have to okay such an arrangement, as under any other circumstance, Gustavsson would have to be made available to 29 other NHL teams via waivers to go down to the minors.
Under the terms of a conditioning stint, he would remain part of the Leafs' 23-man roster and still draw his NHL salary.
"We're open to anything that will help him get his confidence back," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "But those decisions won't be made until after the all-star break and we'll just let things settle down and sort out."
Gustavsson attempted to put a brave face on the fact a younger, less experienced goaltender had just joined the team to temporarily take his place.
"That's the way it is, so I'll just do the best with the situation and work hard," Gustavsson said. "You can't think so much. You just have to go out there and do things that you've been doing for the last couple of years and push yourself."
At the other end of the dressing room, Reimer was beaming as he came off the ice after practice, clearly pleased to be back in the big leagues so soon after a strong six-game showing earlier in the month when Giguère was out with a groin injury.
"I thought I'd be down there for a while, but I'm happy with the opportunity," Reimer said. "Hopefully I can get into a game and get a win again.
"It was a big confidence boost [playing well in his last callup] We had a really good road trip and the guys were playing great. It gave me a lot of confidence and hopefully I can just take that and keep going."
Wilson said giving Reimer another opportunity was a no-brainer.
"At the end of the day, the bottom line is stopping the puck and there's nothing more than that," Wilson said.