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Look cooz back 11/6/98
Goaltender Marcel Cousineau returns to Memorial Stadium tonight, but not in his old Leafs colours. Instead, he'll suit up with the Lowell Lock Monsters.
By ROBIN SHORT
Telegram Sports Editor

Marcel Cousineau was busy Wednesday afternoon chatting on the phone with his agent, Jay Fee ... the same Jay Fee who represents current Maple Leaf-in-limbo Felix Potvin.

"To tell you the truth, I don’t know where he’s going," Cousineau said of his friend and former goaltending battery mate whom the Toronto Maple Leafs are shopping around. "The rumour is Montreal."

One team Potvin isn’t expected to be dealt to is the New York Islanders. If he is, Cousineau hopes he’s not part of the deal.

Been there. Done that.

When the Saint John Flames extinguished the St. John’s Maple Leafs’ 1997-98 AHL season in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs last April, Cousineau raised his goalie stick as he left Stadium ice to acknowledge Leaf fans.

"It’s been a great time," he would say later.

The free-agent-to-be knew his chances of starting a sixth season in the Toronto organization were akin to the Maple Leafs raising a Stanley Cup banner sometime soon — ain’t gonna happen.

Actually, Cousineau’s mind was made up long before that, Aug. 8/97 to be exact, the day Toronto signed Glenn Healy to a $1.2 million free agent contract to backup Potvin.

In 1996-97, Cousineau appeared in 13 games for the NHL Leafs, posting a 3-5-1 record. Last season, Healy was 4-10-2 while playing in 21 games. His fourth win came in the Leafs’ final regular season game against Vancouver.

"That was frustrating because if he had been better than me, I would have said, ‘It was a great deal. Toronto did a good job’ " Cousineau said this week. "But when you look at it, and the amount of money they gave him compared to what I was making, I think I was able to give Toronto the same kind of goaltending as Glenn Healy."

The St. John’s Maple Leafs’ all-time leader in wins (80), ties (44), shutouts (six), game appearances (233) and minutes (13,345) signed with the Islanders over the summer and returns to the Stadium tonight (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday night with the expansion Lowell Lock Monsters.

While the Leafs’ goaltending has been shaky at times, Cousineau has been among the AHL’s best between the pipes. He has a 2.28 goals against average and .923 save percentage and his seven wins and two shutouts lead the AHL.

Ironically, Healy’s also in the minors, suiting up in the International Hockey League until the Potvin situation is resolved in Toronto.

Cousineau said the Healy signing was disappointing to hear and pretty much sealed his fate within the Leafs’ organization. With virtually no talk within the Toronto media of the Leafs going after another goaltender at the time, the signing came as a surprise.

"I thought I did pretty good for the amount of ice time I got, with the situation I was in and with the team we had," he said. "I thought I did pretty good.

"I was planning on getting a second year in and improving even more. From that point on, I was working at getting back in the NHL and that’s what I’m working at now."

Still only 25, the Delson, Que. native was courted by a couple of teams over the summer, but settled on the Islanders. For starters, Mike Milbury is paying him in excess of $200,000 (U.S.) over two years to play in the AHL. Secondly, New York’s goaltending situation isn’t on solid ground, although Tommy Salo has been among the NHL’s best so far in the early going.

"Toronto was willing to talk to me, offer me a new contract where maybe I could have been the third goaltender playing in the ‘I’. But that wasn’t my intention. I’ve played in the NHL and my goal is to get back there.

"During the summer, I got offers to go to Europe but I’m too young for that. I don’t even want to go to the ‘I’. I wanted to stay in the ‘A’ because the exposure NHL-wise is better there. I want to play with the Islanders, but at the same time, there’s a lot of eyes out there and being in Lowell there’s a lot of teams around and every game there’s a lot of scouts here. Every night you’re proving to everybody what you can do as much as you’re proving to the Islanders what you can do."

In the meantime, Cousineau is looking forward to the weekend series at the Stadium.

"I always liked playing in St. John’s. As much as some people didn’t like it there, me and my wife (Guylaine) enjoyed our almost five years there. We had lots of fun and it was a great organization. The people in St. John’s treated us really well.

"But as much as I’m anxious to get there, I’m anxious for those two games to be over with."