Belfour gets nod from Panthers for first start in Toronto since leaving Leafs

Belfour was Toronto’s No. 1 goalie for three seasons. The Leafs paid him US$1.5 million to terminate his employment after they missed the playoffs last spring. The 41-year-old netminder, who didn’t speak to the media prior to the game, is making his third consecutive start – a first for the season.

“He’s played very well for us,” Panthers left-winger Gary Roberts, another former Leaf, said of Belfour. “He’s been great lately.

“He’s been healthy, and you know when Eddie’s healthy he’s as competitive as any goalie that’s ever played. You know he wants to have a good game tonight.”

Toronto is tied for sixth in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with a 16-13-5 record. Florida is 14th with a 11-18-6 record entering the game.

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“Every game, we’ve been right there, but we’ve been finding ways to lose,” said Panthers captain Olli Jokinen. “But there’s a lot of hockey left and, hopefully, we can turn it around.”

The Panthers haven’t won in Toronto since March 3, 2003. They are coming off a 6-3 win Saturday in Boston.

Andrew Raycroft will start for the Leafs, who are looking to extend a three-game winning streak.

“It’s irrelevant,” Raycroft replied when asked about playing against Belfour. “It gives everybody a story to talk about, I guess, but it doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

Toronto defenceman Brendan Bell will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, and centre Nik Antropov will miss his sixth consecutive game with a sprained ankle.