Justin Pogge Gets the Start against Atlanta: Merry Christmas, Leafs Nation

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IDecember 22, 2008

He was chosen in the third round, 90th overall. It was a quiet pick.

For a few minutes, anyway.

Since the day he was drafted by the Maple Leafs, Justin Pogge has become a household name in Leafs Nation. Now it appears he will indeed get his first start tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers as the Leafs finish up a three-game road trip before hitting the Christmas break.

Once chosen by the Maple Leafs, Pogge improved in his final junior seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He sent Leafs Nation into a frenzied state nearly three years ago when he was phenomenal for Team Canada, winning World Junior gold and earning MVP honours. Pogge was 6-0-0 in that tournament.

However, a lot has changed for the Leafs' goalie of the future. There were some stumbling blocks, some doubt.

Some of that can certainly be erased tonight when Pogge and the Leafs battle the Thrashers in Atlanta. I mean, let's not kid ourselves, we won't be "planning the parade," as our critics like to say, but a strong showing from the kid tonight and a lot of the naysayers may be put at ease, for a little while anyway.

Toronto usually has a strong road game in Atlanta, having won seven of their last nine contests. They will be looking for more of the same tonight, and will be looking to build some momentum going into the Christmas break.

Toronto hammered Pittsburgh in their last outing, 7-3, while Atlanta got by Tampa Bay, 4-3.

Pogge has a chance perhaps to show new boss Brian Burke what he brings to the equation. 

Many thought Burke would give Pogge some time between the pipes toward the end of the season, but an injury to goaltender Vesa Toskala has propelled the Toronto Marlies' starting goalie into the starting role.