Vesa Toskala has already ordered a new goalie’s mask and sounded like he couldn’t wait to shed the Toronto Maple Leafs-colored mask that he wore Sunday in his first practice with the Ducks.
“Hopefully soon,” he said, “so I can wash that blue and white out of my gear.”
Toskala took the extra reps usually accorded the backup goaltender in practice. But like his predecessor, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Toskala said he does not think of himself as a backup – even though he is expected to assume that role in Anaheim.
“I obviously want to play a lot. I know how good I can play. But there’s lots of things you can’t control in this league. I just do whatever I’m asked to do here and help the team make the playoffs. I’m not going to complain or anything. If it’s my goal, I would play every game because I love to play. When I play a lot I think I play my best.”
Toskala was the starter during his first two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, following a four-year stint as Evgeni Nabokov’s understudy in San Jose. This season he ceded some playing time to Jonas Gustavsson in Toronto, and was the target of heavy criticism north of the border as the Maple Leafs struggled.
Even so, Toskala said he views his years in Toronto as a learning experience.
“I guess it’s always easy to blame the goalie,” he said. “That said, I think everybody thinks they’re a part. So it’s part of the business there. It’s a little different here. It was a great experience to play there, the biggest hockey market in the world. Now when there are decisions I have to make. I’m sure I’m going to be much smarter with everything, seeing both sides – my years in San Jose and almost three seasons in Canada with the Leafs. I’ve kind of seen both ends now.”
Toskala arrived in California on Saturday, a full six days after the trade was consummated. Because he had not been employed in the United States since 2007 and is a native of Finland (though neither Saku Koivu, Petteri Nokelainen or Teemu Selanne hail from Toskala’s home town of Tampere), it took a week for Toskala to obtain a new U.S. work visa in Toronto.
On Sunday, Toskala immediately got to know and work with Ducks goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, who was making a scheduled visit.
Head coach Randy Carlyle said Toskala is “a player that we brought in because we felt he can make a contribution.”
“We’ll give him a little time to get his feet under him – he hasn’t skated much in practice the last three days – so we’ll make sure he has an opportunity.”
Though Toskala is expected to replace Giguere’s minutes – and replaced Giguere’s locker stall next to Jonas Hiller – he will not replace Giguere’s jersey number and instead wear number 36 for the first time in his career.Toskala had worn number 35 for the last seven seasons of his eight in the NHL, and asked to keep it following the trade.
“It didn’t work out,” he said simply.