SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' backup plan

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Questioned whether Philippe Sauve was ready to be an NHL backup goalie, David Marcoux didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," answered Marcoux, the Calgary Flames goalie coach.

"He spent three years in the American Hockey League -- in his last year, he was dominating -- and has developed into a very good goalie.

"He's been through good times and he's been through bad times and he's used all that experience to build a wall around him."

More important for the Flames is whether the newest member of the organization can be enough of a wall to serve as the No.-2 man behind unsigned restricted free agent Miikka Kiprusoff.

Sauve was acquired yesterday from the Colorado Avalanche for a conditional seventh-round draft choice and appears to be the front-runner for the backup role here in Calgary should Roman Turek not return to the team.

Again, Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter couldn't be reached to answer whether Turek would be returning -- he has a deal for the coming season with the Flames as well as a club in the Czech Republic -- but the acquisition of Sauve may speak to it.

Sauve gives the team another netminder with NHL experience. He was brought in after consultation with Marcoux, who was goalie coach for the Hull Olympiques, with whom Sauve finished his junior career.

"We went over quite a few goalies and I guess this was a good fit," said Marcoux.

A second-round draft choice of the Avs, Sauve received his first taste of the NHL during the 2003-04 season, as backup to David Aebischer, and posted a 7-7-3 record with a 3.04 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.

Among those contests was a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Flames in early March.

Though it was hardly a sparkling rookie season -- Colorado traded for Tommy Salo at the deadline to serve as backup -- the 25-year-old Sauve believes he can push Kiprusoff.

"That's always the mindset," said Sauve from his Montreal-area home. "When I get in there, I want to play the best I can. How many times that is remains to be seen but I'll do my best."

Sauve was unable to play in the AHL during the lockout but spent the second half of the season with ECHL Mississippi, where he posted a 13-4-4 record and a 2.59 GAA.

Sauve's father, Bob, played for four teams over 13 NHL seasons and is now a player agent. Philippe's representative is Daniel Sauve -- no relation -- a partner of his father's.

The netminder, also a restricted free agent, said a new deal is in the works and should be complete in the coming days. His NHL salary in 2003-04 was $500,000 US.

What transpires is the great unknown for Sauve but there's no question he's looking forward to a new chapter.

"The whole organization and the aura around it, I'm really excited to be going there," he said. "David there is another reason to be excited. Not only because of the way he teaches the game but he's very good at helping with the mental side.

"From past experience, I know he'll to a lot to help me get better."

McAMMOND SINGING BLUES: Dean McAmmond is back in the bigs.

The former Flames forward signed a one-year contract worth a reported $925,000 with the St. Louis Blues yesterday.

McAmmond played 64 games for Calgary in 2003-04, collecting 17 goals and 13 assists, but back problems requiring surgery kept him out of the playoffs. He said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter did approach him.

"Darryl did come back a week ago and made me an offer but it wasn't close. I would have loved to have come back to Calgary," McAmmond said from his off-season home in Vernon, B.C.

The slick-skating left-winger spent last season with Albany in the AHL and led the River Rats with 61 points (19-42-61). He missed one game, when he was hit in the face with a puck during warmup, a great sign his back was OK.

"If I can sit on a bus and play three games in three nights, I think it's proof," he said. "I thought there'd be a team that would give me a shot."

RUMOUR MILL: According to the NHLPA website, the Flames have also inked centre Craig MacDonald at $500,000 per season, a pact that mostly likely is a two-way deal. MacDonald, 28, has 110 NHL games under his belt with Florida, Boston and Carolina. He was the third part of a Panthers forward unit called the John Deere Line with Flames Marcus Nilson and Byron Ritchie.


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