“He wants to get back his game. We want him to get back this game,” head coach Mike Babcock told reporters. “We feel this is the best for him and for our team so he can find his way back to being the goalie he is capable of being for the Leafs.
“We need to get him feeling good about himself and being confident.”
Bernier, who began the season as the Maple Leafs’ No. 1 golatender, is 2-17-3 in his last 23 NHL games and has not secured an NHL victory in regulation time since March 3.
On Saturday, the 27-year-old’s most recent outing with the big club, he surrendered some soft goals and the Leafs lost 4-2 to the Washington Capitals.
“The bottom line is: just get to work and work hard every day and you compete real hard and you listen to the goalie coach and you try to find your game,” Babcock said after the loss.
Bernier inked a two-year, $8.3-million contract extension with Toronto over the summer. Hampered by a lower-body injury and depleted confidence, the goaltender has a career-low .888 save percentage so far this season.
He did not partake in the Leafs’ regular team practice Wednesday morning in Winnipeg and instead skated with the scratches.
The Marlies play Friday night in Rochester and host the Manitoba Moose in Toronto Saturday and Sunday. The farm club has another three games the following weekend. Bernier is expected to start four of those six AHL contests.
Sparks will start Wednesday against Jets rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in a battle of two unproven 22-year-olds.
Reimer (lower-body injury) hopes to feel healthy enough to start Thursday in Minnesota.