Things are looking up for Jonas Gustavsson.
The Leafs netminder had a turbulent 2010-11 campaign, splitting time with former Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere early in the year before a rash of injuries found him bouncing back and forth between the Leafs and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
By the end of the year, both keepers had taken a back seat to James Reimer down the stretch.
Gustavsson is now faced with the likelihood that he'll spend the majority of the coming season playing behind Reimer. But that's no reason for the 26-year-old Swede to not be optimistic.
“You always have to do your best and compete and push yourself and push all the other guys,” Gustavsson told TSN Radio. “Then together we're going to be a better team no matter who's playing.”
Gustavsson thinks he and Reimer can make each other better through healthy competition.
“That's my goal. To push him and [have him] push me and to do whatever I can to make this team better”
Although the Leafs have yet to deliver on the promise of a successful, talented team based around a core of young players, Gustavsson believes the team is destined for a push forward this season.
"Since I came here two, three years ago we've been taking small steps in the right direction every year," he said. "It feels like the same thing is going to happen this year. We were really close last year. I feel optimistic.”
Still, the young netminder is not about to make any guarantees.
“I think we have a great shot to make the playoffs, but we can't really look that far ahead right now."
Between a groin injury and several scares as a result of an irregular heartbeat, Gustavsson has found himself sitting for multiple-game stretches three times in his young NHL career.
Complications stemming from the heart condition and the resulting surgery limited Gustavsson to just 23 games last year and kept him out of Leafs games entirely after January 19.
Still, Gustavsson is hoping for better luck when it comes to his health.
“I've always felt great until something happened,” he said. “But, I really feel good now. I feel strong. I feel like I'm ready for the season.”