Gustavsson gets start over Toskala

Updated: October 6, 2009, 4:34 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The new NHL season isn't even a week old, and there is already a goaltending duel in Toronto.

After Vesa Toskala's shaky outing Saturday night against the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs have decided to start rookie Jonas Gustavsson Tuesday night against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Gustavsson
Gustavsson
Toskala
Toskala

Gustavsson, nicknamed "The Monster" for his unusual size for a goalie (6-foot-3, 192 pounds), told reporters after Toronto's morning skate that coach Ron Wilson had given him the nod after Monday's practice.

Gustavsson replaced Toskala in the first period Saturday after the veteran allowed three goals on eight shots against the Washington Capitals. Gustavsson allowed three more goals as the Leafs lost 6-4.

"Every time you play, whatever situation it is, you have a chance to improve yourself," Gustavsson said Tuesday. "If you improve yourself, you have the chance to play even more. But I'm just thankful to have this chance to start tonight. The most important thing tonight is that we play good as a team and win the game."

Toskala, who is 32 and in his third season with the Maple Leafs, was, as expected, unhappy with the move.

"I'm going to worry about the things that I can control," he said Tuesday. "It's the coach's decision on who plays."

Wilson said he could not say who would start the Leafs' next game, which will be Saturday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I feel bad for Vesa that he's being put in this position when he hasn't done anything wrong," Wilson said. "He's a good goalie and he's going to work hard in practice . . . If he was a racehorse, you would say he's not in form right there."

Gustavsson was a highly coveted unrestricted free-agent goalie this past summer. Dallas, San Jose and Colorado also made offers, but the 24-year-old from Sweden chose Toronto, signing a one-year, entry-level deal worth $810,000, plus a combined $90,000 in signing bonus money and other potential incentives.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.