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Giggy, the mentor, returns to face Reimer

Jean-Sebastien Giguere readily admits there weren't dozens of teams lining up to sign him this summer.

No, the Colorado Avalanche were the first team to approach him on July 1, and the deal came together almost right away, as he agreed to a two-year, $2.5-million contract to become Semyon Varlamov's backup and mentor.

It's a role Giguere had filled last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and James Reimer, who ultimately won the No. 1 role.

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As he prepared to face Reimer for the first time on Monday night, Giguere said he's now used to being more of a mentor than an every day starter.

"They're all stealing my jobs, too," he said, laughing when his role in helping Reimer, Jonas Hiller and Ilya Bryzgalov become starters was brought up. "In a way it could be flattering. But these guys all have amazing talent ... I'm glad I was able to play with those guys because they always pushed me every day. I knew that if I wasn't playing at my best, these guys would step up and take my job."

Now 34, Giguere has battled injuries and inconsistency the past three seasons, really only putting up one good campaign since winning the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks and Leafs GM Brian Burke in 2007. He had off-season surgery on his groin injury and believes he's healthier than he's been in a while.

Giguere made clear Monday that there are also "no hard feelings" against the organization for not offering him a contract in the off-season.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I have [so much] respect for Burkie. He's a great human being and he's given me chances. He definitely never had to make that trade for me. I have absolutely no hard feelings with it, no."

Giguere's legacy with the Leafs, meanwhile, is in what he was able to teach Reimer during the second half of last season. Even as he struggled, Giguere took on a mentorship role and the pair became friends. They connected before the morning skate Monday to catch up.

Both Reimer and Leafs coach Ron Wilson had nothing but praise for the way Giguere conducted himself during a trying year in 2010-11.

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"Throughout Giggy's career, he's understood how hard he has to practice," Wilson said. "Unfortunately he's had a few injuries along the way ... But Giggy's always worked hard with the other goalie. The No. 1 thing that Giggy's put into James' head is how hard you have to work in order to stay consistent and be an effective goalie and have a long career. He's passed that onto James."

"He helped me a ton," Reimer said. "He was a huge mentor for me, a huge leader. It'll be kind of a little different dynamic tonight. It'll be a fun game to play."

Some around the league were surprised Giguere was able to find a home so quickly, but Reimer believes it was his reputation with young goaltenders and as a hard worker that made him a good fit with someone like Varlamov.

"I know he never doubted [his ability]," Reimer said. "I never doubted he would be back in the league. From what I've heard from [Leafs goalie coach] Frankie [Allaire], his injuries have healed up great. He's had a couple surgeries and he feels better than he has in the past couple years. It's great to see him catch on and have a great start so far."

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco didn't hesitate when asked what Giguere has brought to his young team.

"Leadership," Sacco said. "Both on and off the ice. [Wilson and Reimer] are bang on as far as him being a real good addition to our hockey club. He can certainly help Varly, mentor Varly, almost act as a second goalie coach for us. He's just been a real positive influence in the room. I think a lot of our younger guys look up to him."

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The organization, meanwhile, realized what starting this game would mean to Giguere, who still wants to show the Leafs he has plenty of game left.

"When you play against the old team, you want to do well," Giguere said. "You want to try to win. It's all about winning. Obviously a fun building on the road, these guys are playing well, so it's going to be a fun challenge for me and for the rest of the team, too."


- The scratches for Toronto are the same as Saturday's win over the Calgary Flames: Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill and Jake Gardiner. Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri, meanwhile, remain on IR.

- Wilson on having a fourth line that can play well defensively (i.e. minus an enforcer every night, as they've had in the past): "You need in the course of a night to be able to have a definite shutdown line that can go out there and still be physical and do some of the dirty things. In particular, [you need to] have some guys on your fourth line who can be good penalty killers and we have that."

- Avs coach Joe Sacco said that forward Peter Mueller is able to play but that he wants to hold him out until at least Thursday to give him more time to recover from what's believed to be recurring concussion symptoms. The team hasn't been specific on what exactly is ailing Mueller so it's hard to say whether or not that timeline is accurate.

- The Leafs full lineup for tonight's game is available here. Audio from both coaches is posted below.

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