Their lockers are adjacent inside the players' change room at Mastercard Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility in the city’s west end.
They are brothers in arms – not to mention legs and shoulders and chests – doing whatever it takes to block pucks for a living in the NHL.
And in case they forget the difficult position they play, Frederik Andersen and Garret Sparks need only glance behind them for a reminder. On the wall above, surrounded by the Maple Leafs logo, are the initials JB for Johnny Bower, the most fabled Leaf goaltender in franchise history.
While they may sit beside each other at the arena, there is no mistaking the pecking order.
Andersen is the incumbent and will play the lion’s share. Sparks is the eager understudy in his first year in the NHL as the Toronto backup, learning what he can from the master.
"I don’t find it frustrating at all,” said Sparks, 1-1, whose playing time been limited to two starts. “I think it’s been amazing what [Andersen’s] been able to do here so far this season. We’re 15 games in now and he’s got .930 [save percentage], he’s right where he wants to be.
“He obviously put in a ton of work this summer getting himself there. It's been nice just to watch him be able to do what he's doing and have the workload that he has and manage it, and watch how he manages it.”
Andersen has started in 13 games and looked solid in compiling an 8-5 record. Only Craig Anderson with the woeful Ottawa Senators has played in more games (14) than Andersen heading into Thursday’s action.
He has been the Leafs' top performer in six of those outings, at least according to the ESPN hockey website, boasting a solid .929 save percentage (Sparks was just off), which is a career high.
But Sparks’s workload is set to jump.
The Leafs are entering a hectic schedule, playing five games over eight nights, starting with the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Arena on Friday night.
The Leafs depart immediately after that game for Boston to play the Bruins on Saturday, the first of two demanding sets of back-to-back games in the coming week.
On Tuesday, the Leafs will be in Los Angeles to play the Kings before heading to San Jose to face the Sharks on Thursday.
Toronto’s four-game excursion concludes next Friday, in Anaheim against the Ducks.
Leafs head coach Mike Babcock usually splits the goaltending duties when his team plays back-to-backs. He confirmed on Thursday that will at least be the case against New Jersey and Boston, although he would not say whether Andersen or Sparks will start on Friday.
While the Leafs offence has performed sporadically, Andersen’s goaltending has been rock-steady. It has been the main reason the Leafs have been able to remain at or near the top in the Eastern Conference standing.
The Leafs knew heading into the season that they would need consistent play from the 29-year-old Andersen if they held any hope making a deep run in the playoffs. For his part, Andersen embarked on a rigorous conditioning program in his native Denmark over the off-season, which seems to be paying dividends.
"I think it's something I've learned as I've gotten older, the more experience you get it matters what you're doing,” Andersen said. “I think when you're a young teenager and playing hockey you probably stay up all night and still play well the next day.
“But I'm thinking longer term now. I think you realize hockey's not going to be here forever."
Babcock visited Andersen in Denmark in the summer and said the unassuming goalie has earned the respect of the Leafs locker room.
“Freddy’s a special guy and guys treat him that way here,” Babcock said. “He’s a real likable guy, but he’s worked hard. One of the reasons you’re appreciated is you work hard and you do things right and the guys can trust you on a nightly basis.”