Turning Over a New Leaf

Goaltender Vesa Toskala battled for playing time on his first NHL team. His chance to be a No. 1 goalie may have finally arrived with his new club.

Toskala is expected to start when the Toronto Maple Leafs (1-1-1) host the Carolina Hurricanes (1-1-1) on Tuesday.

Although he has not won the job away from Andrew Raycroft completely, the Maple Leafs will likely give Toskala most of the playing time for now.

"Our goal here is to have one of our two goalies hot all the time," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "We want to keep our hockey team in a position to do that. I won't leave anybody out too, too long, but at the same time when a guy's playing well - a guy's playing well."

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Toronto -140 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 total goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Carolina +125 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Toskala got off to a good start in winning his first home appearance with Toronto, stopping 25 shots in a 4-3 victory over Montreal on Saturday.

Toskala made 26 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Ottawa on Thursday in his Maple Leafs debut. The 30-year-old goalie was acquired from San Jose in June along with forward Mike Bell for three draft picks.

In six seasons with the Sharks, Toskala split time with Evgeni Nabokov, never playing more than 38 games. He did, however, go 49-17-5 with a 2.45 goals-against average over the 2005-06 and '06-'07 seasons.

"He's a great goaltender," new Leafs forward Jason Blake said of Toskala, who's 0-2-0 with a 3.03 GAA against Carolina. "There's no question about it."

Blake revealed some stunning news Monday, announcing he has a rare form of leukemia that is highly treatable. The 34-year-old player said he has begun treatment and will still be able to perform at a high level. He made his condition public after talking to teammates at practice.

He said he has started taking a pill daily that ``has proven to be very effective in controlling this cancer.''

``The prognosis, and certainly the expectations of my physician, myself and my family, is that I will live a long, full and normal life,'' he said in a statement on the team's Web site.

Blake is in no immediate danger and shouldn't miss any playing time, according to team doctors.

Blake scored 40 goals last season for the New York Islanders and signed a $20 million, five-year deal with Toronto in the offseason.

The Leafs added Blake with the hope that he could provide offensive support to captain Mats Sundin, who's on the verge of setting two team records. Sundin is tied with Darryl Sittler for the franchise mark in goals with 389, and the center needs one point to match Sittler's 916 for the most in Maple Leafs history.

Sundin has a point in all three games this season, totaling a goal and five assists. He recorded three assists against Montreal.

Sundin has 30 goals and 36 assists in 61 games against the Hurricanes franchise.

Toronto has struggled on the power play so far, going 0-for-17 before Tomas Kaberle scored with 1:34 left in overtime against the Canadiens.

"We worked hard for it," forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "The first two games we've been working hard but didn't get the results we wanted."

Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette saw his team open a six-game road trip with a 2-0 defeat to Washington on Saturday.

"We showed more spark in the third period," Laviolette said, "but it's too little too late."

While the Leafs have had problems with the man advantage, the Hurricanes have allowed five power-play goals in 18 chances. They went 0-for-4 on the power play Saturday and have scored on only two extra-man opportunities this season.

"We were sitting on our heels," Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley said. "We obviously didn't play to our potential."

Forward Eric Staal has a goal in each of his last three visits to Toronto and has totaled seven points in his past four games at the Air Canada Centre.

The Hurricanes' Cam Ward is 2-3-1 with a 3.79 GAA in six starts against the Maple Leafs, who took three of four meetings last season and won the last two by a combined 10-2.

by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us

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