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Reports: Rookie G Dustin Tokarski to start for Canadiens in Game 2

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Dustin Tokarski will make his postseason debut in Game 2 against Rangers. (USATSI)
Dustin Tokarski will make his postseason debut in Game 2 against Rangers. (USATSI)

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With the loss of Carey Price for the remainder of the Eastern Conference Final, the Habs faced a fairly difficult decision about how to proceed. On one hand, they could go with the experienced backup in Peter Budaj, or the rookie called up from the American hockey league in 24-year-old Dustin Tokarski . Per multiple reports, it will be Tokarski getting the Game 2 start.

Budaj played 20 minutes in relief of the injured Price and promptly gave up three goals on eight shots. Even so, when making the decision on the starter, Budaj has a robust NHL record in comparison to Tokarski's 10 career games over three seasons, including three this year with the Habs.

Over 296 NHL appearances, Budaj posted a .903 save percentage and has won 124 games in the league. The postseason has not been kind to the Slovakian netminder, however. He's only made seven career appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an ugly .843 save percentage and 5.13 goals-against average. Those aren't exactly confidence-building numbers.

The worst strike against Tokarski is his inexperience, but he does have some relatable work even if it is not at the NHL level.

As noted, Tokarski, a former draft choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning and acquired by the Canadians via trade last season, has appeared in just 10 NHL games. He's gone 3-3-1 over that span, with a .902 save percentage and 2.93 goals-against average. However, for a goalie at his age, he's been in some high-pressure situations.

Tokarski helped the Norfolk Adirals win the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League in 2012. He made 14 appearances and went 12-2 with a .944 save percentage and 1.46 goals-against average. He also backstopped the Spokane Chiefs to both the WHL postseason title and Memorial Cup in 2008. His save percentage in the WHL playoffs that year was .940. He also was the starting goaltender for Canada's gold-medal squad at the 2009 World Junior Championship.

All of that experience is great and should be helpful, but hopping into a Stanley Cup playoff game under the bright lights of Montreal is going to be an entirely different experience. Not only that, his team is trailing the series 1-0 and his last game action was on April 14.

It's a tough situation for Habs coach Michel Therrien, but there appears to be a bit more upside in giving the job to the kid. Budaj hasn't had success in the playoffs and had a brutal showing in Game 1. Tokarski comes in with a clean slate and though his inexperience is a concern, they don't quite know what they're going to get out of him. It's better to try him out in Game 2 and take your chances than have to go to him when it's too late should Budaj falter.

Going with Tokarski, they have the veteran safety net, if you want to call Budaj that. Knowing Price is out for the series, Therrien knows what he has in Budaj. Game 2 is not the ideal time, but the best remaining option for him to see what he has in Tokarski.

Expect him to be tested early and often by the Rangers as they'll look to pounce and try to take a pair of wins back to New York with them.

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