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Maple Leafs to give struggling Andersen a rest

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at MasterCard Centre on Friday before flying to Ottawa for Saturday’s game against the Senators.

Frederik Andersen is finally getting a rest. It will be Garret Sparks starting on Saturday in Ottawa making this only the second time all season – outside of the back-to-back situations​ – that a healthy Andersen has not been in net for Toronto.

"He's got a good break this week to recharge and get himself going and get his focus the way he wants," head coach Mike Babcock said.

Andersen has struggled mightily this month posting an .890 save percentage in 11 games.

"You learn from it," Andersen said, "and I've been through it before and come out really good again and I'm sure I will again so that's a positive thing. When you do go through those stretches it feels like the world is falling apart, but you don’t necessarily lose your talent or anything like that so you’re​ better off when you come out of it. And it adds to your confidence once you finally work your way out of it."

Leafs players showed no mercy to this mannequin during practice. VIDEO @ https://t.co/0i9St2RY1O pic.twitter.com/EKJmctgSUE

Andersen will now have four full days off between starts, making this his longest break since the bye week. With the jam-packed schedule it's hard to find a lot of practice time so this is a valuable chance for Andersen to dial in on certain things. On Friday, goalie coach Steve Briere brought out his mannequins for the first time in a while helping Andersen work on fighting through screens.

"It's good," he said. "Obviously, playoff time there's going to be a lot of guys going to the net, a lot of big bodies so it's a good way of working on that stuff without hurting guys in practice."

The mannequins were attached to strings allowing Briere to simulate moving screens similar to the ones that led to the Radko Gudas goal in Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia.

"That’s a good example of it, where there's lot of bodies crossing each way and sometimes you might not be able to pick up the puck until the last second or only see the first part of the shot so that’s another good way of training," Andersen noted.


All tied up! pic.twitter.com/AqLAQ7003u

And while the extra practice time is nice, Andersen believes his struggle right now is more mental. He insists that he felt good despite allowing four goals on 44 shots against the Flyers and also felt similarly positive about his recent practice sessions.

"You don't really get worse in those stretches where you don't feel things are going your way and it’s a hard thing to do, but you got to remember what kind of talent you have and what level you're capable of playing and you really just try to get back to that," he said. "And that’s the........