Curtis McElhinney’s long, lonely wait is over. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ backup goaltender will draw into his first real game under his new contract Wednesday, as the Leafs host the rested and resurgent Detroit Red Wings on the sleepy end of a back-to-back. "It’ll be nice to hop back in there and get a feel for things again," McElhinney told Sportsnet in an interview. After inking a two-year, $1.7-million commitment on July 1 and moving his family to Toronto for a contract McElhinney understands could be his last in the NHL, the career No. 2 is antsy to perform after an uneven showing in pre-season. McElhinney says he prepares for each Frederik Andersen start as if it were his own, finding confidence through routine. The journeyman knew, barring injury or blowout, he’d have to wait until Game 7 of the season to taste the action. "Goalies have tough jobs. You’re out there on an island, it feels like," sympathized Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly. "The way he played at the end of last year was outstanding. There’s no reason not to have confidence in him. Mac’s a great pro. He’s been doing it a long time. There’s never a doubt that when he gets his chance to go, he’ll be ready." The 34-year-old has carved a good living wearing a ball cap and cradling a clipboard. Simple habits, McElhinney explained, help him deal with a jagged schedule where he could be called upon every couple days or sit dormant for four weeks at a time. "When you’re in those longer stretches, the hardest part is getting the feel of the game back," McElhinney said. "Even nights I’m not playing, I’ve found for me to have success, I prepare as if I am playing. The routine stays the same." Head coach Mike Babcock has said flatly that McElhinney will get "all the horrible starts" this season, and Andersen’s shutout of Washington’s high-octane offence Tuesday only underscored the great Dane’s No. 1 status.
Leafs’ McElhinney talks Calvin Pickard: ‘The threat is always there’
Sportsnet | Oct 18