Maple Leafs-Blues Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs' situation in net is nothing short of a mess with their two available goaltenders owning two games of NHL experience between them.
Their struggles putting the puck into the net haven't made things any easier.
Toronto looks to avoid a sixth loss in seven games by ending a four-game series losing streak against the host St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
Jonathan Bernier is 0-8-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average, forcing the Maple Leafs (8-13-5) to send him to the AHL for a 10-day conditioning stint they hope gets him on track. Garret Sparks replaced Bernier on the roster and became the first in franchise history to post a shutout in his NHL debut with a 3-0 win over Edmonton on Monday, but he wasn't nearly as good Wednesday in a 6-1 loss at Winnipeg.
James Reimer has a solid 2.01 GAA in 16 games, but he missed the two previous games with a lower-body injury before making 27 saves in a 1-0 loss to Minnesota on Thursday.
Toronto has scored fewer than two non-shootout goals 13 times and ranks near the bottom of the league with 55 on the season. Peter Holland appeared to score the tying goal with roughly four minutes remaining against the Wild, but it was disallowed after a coach's challenge revealed he was offside upon entering the zone.
"It was one of those games where we just couldn't find a way to score," Reimer said. "They got that one on the (power play) and then they were able to hang on. ... If we keep playing like that and that hard, we're bound to score goals and win games."
It's unclear when Reimer will be in net to see that come to fruition, though. He aggravated the injury - believed to be a groin problem - and is considered day to day.
The Leafs on Friday called up 21-year-old Antoine Bibeau, who'll likely serve as Sparks' backup in this contest. The duration of his stay with the club will depend on how long it takes Reimer to recover.
Bernier was pulled after the first period and Reimer allowed three goals over the next two in a 6-1 loss to the Blues in the most recent meeting March 7. Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist while Jori Lehtera and Alexander Steen had three assists apiece.
All three were held off the score sheet Friday, though, as St. Louis (15-7-4) fell to the New York Islanders 2-1 in a shootout. Kevin Shattenkirk scored to give him three goals and eight assists over his last 10.
The Blues dropped to 2-1-3 since Nov. 21, a stretch that includes dropping two of three at home.
"We are trying to get more people to contribute offensively, but we're not there yet," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We need more help from more people."
Shattenkirk and Steen scored in a 3-0 victory Jan. 17 in Toronto's visit to St. Louis last season and Brian Elliott made 27 saves. Elliott stopped 24 shots Friday, but it's likely Jake Allen will be back in goal to finish the back-to-back set.
Allen struggled in his last outing Tuesday, allowing three goals on five shots before being pulled in a 3-1 loss to Florida. He's never faced the Maple Leafs.