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Aubin to start and Racine to be backup for Leafs against Habs

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Jean-Sebastien Aubin will start and Jean-Francois Racine will be the backup against the Montreal Canadiens in the annual Hockey Hall of Fame game Saturday night (7 p.m. ET).

The most memorable French-Canadian tandem to wear the blue and white was Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent in 1971-72. Michel Laroque and Vincent Tremblay split the goaltending job in 1981-82, and Marcel Cousineau watched Felix Potvin play most of the games in 1996-97.

The Aubin-Racine combination won't last long. No. 1 Andrew Raycroft sits out Saturday after suffering a slight groin injury during a 6-4 win in Boston on Thursday, but he says he expects he'll be fit to play when Toronto resumes its schedule again next Thursday in Boston.

"It's a little tight, a little sore, but nothing changed overnight from what we were thinking - kind of day to day," Raycroft, in street clothes, said while his teammates practised Friday. "It's going to be a couple more days but it feels alright."

With captain Mats Sundin out another three weeks with strained right arm ligaments, the Leafs heaved a collective sigh of relief when they learned that Raycroft's injury isn't serious - not that Raycroft is happy about missing even one game.

"It's always frustrating but sometimes it's even more frustrating when you've been struggling a little bit then you start to feel good (about how you're playing) and then it happens," he said. "I feel pretty good with where I'm at.

"Fortunately, there's a break in the schedule and I'm not going to miss very much."

Raycroft doesn't have a history of groin problems so should heal quickly. It's been five or six years since he missed a game with a similar injury.

"(Groin injuries) have never been a problem at all," he said.

Aubin was great down the stretch late last season after Ed Belfour hurt his back, but he's had little work this season and has a 4.10 goals-against average and .857 save percentage.

"You've got to jump in and play your best," he said. "I haven't been as good when I've got chances to play as I was last season.

"I feel the bounces just haven't gone my way yet. It goes in cycles. They'll come back my way."

Racine has never started an NHL game. He was summoned from the AHL's Toronto Marlies - he's won one game and lost three - when coach Paul Maurice opted to go with a completely healthy netminder as a backup rather than risk using Mikael Tellqvist, who is not fully recovered from a broken right ring finger. Tellqvist was on the ice with Aubin on Friday but the damaged finger hampers handling the puck with his stick.

Tellqvist hasn't started a game since last March, when he was shunted him to the end of the bench by Aubin.

"It's obviously frustrating when you're not even in the lineup," said Tellqvist. "You just try to stay in as good shape as possible and wait for your chance.

"I know I can play in this league."

Said Maurice: "I'm sure he's ready to do anything to get back into the lineup but I just don't think he's ready yet."

If Raycroft isn't ready by Thursday, Tellqvist would probably back up Aubin in Boston, said Maurice.

Meanwhile, Kyle Wellwood has made a seamless return to centre after skating on Sundin's wing. The line of Wellwood with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov was Toronto's best against the Bruins, with Ponikarovsky increasing his goal total to seven. The six-foot-four native of Ukraine is thriving now that checkers aren't allowed to hook and grab.

"This new game has opened up huge doors for a big man who can skate," said Maurice.

Notes: D Pavel Kubina will return to the Leafs on Tuesday after being granted a leave of absence to be in the Czech Republic for the birth of his first child . . . Montreal also will be without a top forward, Chris Higgins (sprained ankle) on Saturday . . . D Andy Wozniewski, out since suffering a shoulder injury Oct. 7, has been signed to a US$500,000 one-year contract extension, Toronto GM John Ferguson announced Friday . . . All Leafs players will have a poppy on their helmets in recognition of Remembrance Day. Eight veterans who served in the armed forces during the Second World War or who have just returned from duty in Afghanistan will be recognized during pre-game ceremonies. On Jan. 13, 2007, the Leafs expect more than 100 soldiers including General Rick Hillier, the country's chief of defence, to attend their Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.


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