Leafs' Wilson to give Gustavsson bulk of remaining starts Staff

1/22/2010 10:02:32 PM

The future is now for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jonas Gustavsson.

On Friday, head coach Ron Wilson anointed the 25-year-old the team's top goaltender and vowed to get him into as many games as possible until the season ends.

"I think he's played better and the numbers show that," said Wilson. "I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist when you look at save percentages, wins, goals against average and stuff like that.

"He's the future of our goaltending as I see it right now and I think he deserves the chance to carry the ball going forward."

The Swedish rookie has shown flashes of magic during his first NHL campaign and has far superior numbers to veteran Vesa Toskala. Gustavsson boasts a 2.97 GAA and .901% versus Toskala's 3.64 and .874.

"You want to play games so of course I'm happy for that, but I know also that I have to play well too," said Gustavsson.

"It's up to me, it's always up to yourself to prove you want to play games so I'm going to try and do my best."

Toskala entered the season as the team's number one, but injuries and inconsistent play have hurt the 35-year-old's standing in the team's goaltending hierarchy. His GAA and save percentage are the lowest in the league (for goalies with over eight games played).

Wilson made it clear that the team will try not to push Gustavsson too hard and that he will get his rest.

"You are not going to see him play every game, the way our schedule sets up, but the next couple of weeks we've got two day breaks between back-to-backs so I don't see, unless he doesn't play well, that he wouldn't be in there."

As he has been improving on the ice, "The Monster" has put in his work in the gym and Wilson praised him for the effort.

"He's put on 10 lbs this year just being over here and training with a strength coach, eating right and knowing that it is a big emphasis on our part to build him up to where he becomes a number one goalie capable of playing 65 or 70 games."   

For Gustavsson the extra effort in the gym is as much about his proving his worth to teammates as it is about personal conditioning.

"You always have to show, for yourself and for the other guys that you are working hard. If the other guys see that, they will probably trust you even more."

Gustavsson's performance has been a welcome surprise during a troubling season for the Maple Leafs as the team sits 14th in the Eastern Conference and 28th overall in the NHL.