CALGARY – Vesa Toskala referred to the current campaign as a “broken season,” but the new Flames netminder has managed to maintain a positive attitude.
“I just go day-by-day and try to enjoy every day,” said Toskala after taking part in an optional practice with the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
“Every time when they put me in, I just try to give the team a chance to win and try to help them in the playoff race.”
After going 55-42-17 in his first two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toskala had high hopes. Instead, he compiled a 7-12-3 record to go with a 3.66 goals-against average and a .874 save percentage in 26 games with the Leafs.
A day after he stopped 31 of 35 shots he faced in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 30, the Maple Leafs traded Toskala and forward Jason Blake to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“It’s a rebuilding process there now, so it was tough to get wins,” said the five-foot-10, 198-pound Finn. “Still, I enjoyed my time there. I loved the city, I loved the fans there. Overall it was a really, really good experience.”
During his short stint in Anaheim, Toskala didn’t see any action before being dealt to Calgary on March 3 for Flames backup Curtis McElhinney.
“I can’t say I was surprised to get traded again, but to get traded to this team, that was a surprise,” Toskala said. “I didn’t expect this.”
Flames assistant coach Jamie McLennan said the club was pleased to pick up a player of Toskala’s calibre.
“From an organizational standpoint, we’re really fortunate to have him,” McLennan said. “There’s a lot of teams that would love to have him as their No. 1. He’s an excellent goaltender, he’s got a great demeanour, he handles the puck well and his skill set is really good.”
In his first start for Calgary on Sunday, Toskala stopped 27 of 29 shots in the Flames’ 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.
“He stepped right in and played an excellent game in Minnesota and gave us a huge win when we needed it,” said McClennan.
It didn’t take long for Toskala to fit in with his new team. He and fellow Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprusoff broke into the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and the deal that brought him to Calgary reunited with former Toronto teammates Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers.
“I know so many guys on the team,” Toskala said. “Obviously Kipper, a good friend of mine, is here, so it’s a good place to spend the rest of the season.”
White, who was acquired from the Leafs in the seven-player deal that saw Dion Phaneuf land in Toronto on Jan. 31, said he was happy to see Toskala arrive in Calgary.
“He’s an outstanding goaltender and he’s going to fit in really well here and he’s going to help us with this playoff run as well,” White said. “We’re good friends so it was really neat to see him come here and join this playoff push that we’re in.”
With 16 games left on their schedule over the next 31 days, Kiprusoff will most likely carry most of the workload for the Flames, although McLennan said Toskala will definitely get action.
“You know what? He’s going to get a chance to play,” McLennan said. “He’s going to be a big part of our group coming down the stretch.”
White has confidence that Toskala can provide the Flames with quality goaltending when he’s called upon.
“Kipper obviously plays a lot and has a fairly heavy workload so if we can save him his legs a little bit, it’s just all the more better for us.”