TORONTO – Despite not seeing game action in three weeks, James Reimer looked as sharp as ever Saturday.
The Marlies netminder made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season as the Toronto Marlies continued their winning ways with a 2-0 victory over the Abbotsford Heat 2-0 in American Hockey League action.
Reimer was solid in picking up his sixth win, despite making his first start for the Marlies since Nov. 13. He had been backing up Jonas Gustavsson with the Toronto Maple Leafs because of J-S Giguere’s groin injured.
“Honestly, I thought there was going to be some (rust),” Reimer said. “I don’t know if I got a shot in the first eight minutes. But I was able to stay in there, felt the first couple and the team took it from there.”
Joey Crabb and Dale Mitchell scored for Toronto. Leland Irving stopped 22 shots in a losing effort for the Heat.
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins gave Reimer the start after Jussi Rynnas played in Friday’s 6-4 win over the Heat and said he was concerned with the long layoff.
“I was actually a little nervous about him because he hadn’t played,” Eakins said. “It’s always great to get called up, but the downfall is he comes back and he hasn’t had any game action. But what a great way to come back in.”
Reimer didn’t get into a game with the Leafs, but is still glad he got the call.
“I would’ve like to start,” Reimer said. “It’s your goal as a hockey player since you were a kid to start a game in the NHL, but it’s also just a blessing to be called up and to be there. I don’t take for granted at all the opportunity.”
The low-scoring affair was in stark contrast to Friday night’s shootout. The Heat scored four goals with the man-advantage in that game, but the Marlies held its power-play unit off the scoresheet Saturday in five power-play opportunities.
“Playing Abbotsford, it’s a grind,” Eakins said. “They’re very good at clogging up the neutral zone and they make you pay for every chance you get. Our guys stuck with it in a very boring, hard-hitting game and we were able to grab the two points.”
After a scoreless first period, the Marlies got things going early in the second. Crabb picked up his 10th of the season at 2:10 when he banged in a rebound past Irving during a scramble around the Heat goal.
Mitchell made it 2-0 at 7:31 of the third when his shot dribbled past Irving, who was out of position after giving up a juicy rebound.
The Marlies have now won five in a row.
“I do my very best to keep our guys on an even keel, ” Eakins said. “Any time I feel any kind of negativity or lack of confidence. I want to get those thoughts out of their heads immediately. That’s always my main concern with the players and the team.
“We’re certainly in a spot where we’re a confident bunch.”
The Heat (12-11-3) lost its fourth in a row and dropped four points behind the second-place Marlies (14-8-3) in the North Division.
The Marlies play their third game in three days Sunday at when they host the Chicago Wolves. The Heat’s next game is Tuesday at home against the Lake Erie in the first of back-to-back games against the Monsters.
Notes: The Marlies are 12-2-3 with Mike Zigomanis in the lineup since the Maple Leafs assigned him to the Marlies. … Irving’s 11 wins had him tied with Brad Thiessen of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the league lead going into Saturday’s games. … The Marlies are now 12-0-1 when leading after two periods … Crabb was back with the Marlies after a two-game stint with the Maple Leafs in which he had one assist.