The only shots to come near Jonathan Bernier in his week away from the Maple Leaf firing range were probably of the liquid variety at a St. Lucia resort.

But it's back to business for Bernier starting Thursday and with 22 games in 45 days to go.

Toronto's playoff push will rely heavily on its busy goalie and how much his guilt-ridden teammates can do to reduce his workload.

At 36.2 shots against per game, the Leafs have given up more than any team in the NHL. Only the Ottawa Senators have joined the Leafs north of 2,000 pucks and the top 10 teams include Buffalo and Edmonton at 1,947, two clubs well out of the playoff hunt.

If there's one man the Leafs can ill afford to put back in the trenches at anything less than 100% physically and mentally, it's Bernier.

But fear not, says the man with the Leo The Lion zodiac sign on his mask, who is expected to start on Long Island and then in his hometown of Montreal on Saturday.

"Today was my best practice," Bernier said Tuesday.

"The first couple of days, it felt like pucks were coming in 100 miles an hour, but today I feel pretty good.

"I knew (rust) would happen when you don't see pucks for a week and half -- but it was fun to get on the ice and I'm excited to get back Thursday."

While vacationing in the Caribbean, Bernier said he didn't do anything remotely reflex related, except maybe catch a tube of sunscreen a teammate tossed his way.

"I really took it easy," he emphasized. "But there was some hard practising this week (coach Randy Carlyle put on a seven-day mini camp that started last Wednesday) and hopefully we're ready."

Bernier's .927 save percentage ranks him fifth among NHL goalies who've played at least 25 games. His 1,444 shots against are by far the most of those leaders.