Monster practices, but MacDonald still in net for Leafs

Mired in one of their worst starts to a season in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping that goalie Jonas Gustavsson can return to the lineup and help get the team back on track.

Unfortunately, the Leafs are going to have to wait for that, as coach Ron Wilson is not going to rush the rookie back from a groin injury suffered earlier this year.

“He hasn’t even gone through a practice yet,” Wilson told reporters. “He’s doing little exercises out there to activate all the muscles in his lower body, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that he can play Monday in Anaheim.”

Gustavsson hasn’t been between the pipes since Oct. 6, when he lost his first career start 2-1 against the Ottawa Senators.

The 24-year-old, nicknamed the Monster, has by far the best stats among the Leafs backstops with a goals-against average of 3.09 and a .894 save percentage in five periods.

“Of course, you don’t want to miss two weeks,” Gustavsson said. “You want to be out there. But you have to see that it’s a long season. You don’t want to take chances now.”

Gustavsson and fellow keeper Vesa Toskala practiced together before the rest of the team, Tuesday. Toskala, Toronto’s starting goalie coming out of the pre-season, is also out day-to-day with a knee injury.

The Leafs are off to an 0-6-1 record, earning just one of a possible 14 points in this young NHL season and the team has already dressed four different goaltenders.

Gustavsson, Toskala, Joey MacDonald and James Reimer have all suited up for Toronto.

Combined, the Leafs netminders have been torched for a league worst 32 goals, or 4.57 goals-against per game, also good for last place in the NHL.

MacDonald is currently scheduled to start Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, the first contest of a five-game road trip. He has a goals-against average of 4.00 and an .857 save percentage in two starts.

Wilson said all four goalies will travel with the team on the road, a journey that has them trekking to Vancouver, Anaheim, Dallas, Buffalo and Montreal before returning home for a Nov. 3 tilt versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.