SUN Hockey Pool

All flying, no driving

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

A day on the links couldn't pull Miikka Kiprusoff away from a day on the ice this close to training camp.

Now, if it were a fishing derby on the Bow River, instead of the Flames' annual charity golf tournament ...

"I think this is better for me. I'm not a big golfer," said Kiprusoff, who begged off the tourney for an on-ice session at the Don Hartman Northeast Sportsplex. "I do more fishing, so I don't have much time for golf."

To a man, Kipper's teammates don't care if he doesn't want to spend his time working on his driving, chipping or putting, so long as he proves to be the backbone to the club's fortunes like he was during the 2003-04 season and subsequent playoff run to the Stanley Cup final.

There's certainly no doubt the soft-spoken, cool-as-a-cucumber goaltender has captain Jarome Iginla and the rest of his teammates fully behind him with no fears that season -- which Kiprusoff started No. 3 on the depth chart on the San Jose Sharks before a November trade to the Stampede City -- was an aberration.

"We have a lot of confidence in him. He has such a great demeanour and works very hard in practice and competes, it's going to be great to have him in net for a full season," Iginla said.

"Miikka's such a big part of our club. He had such a tremendous season for us but then he had a great World Cup and this past year -- I didn't watch any games -- but I heard he was great again. We can't wait to get him in goal for us."

Still, it's hard to imagine Kiprusoff can equal the amazing numbers he posted, a modern-day record 1.69 goals against average to go with a .933 save percentage and 24-10-4 record.

Making it even more difficult will be reduced goalie pads, which he was sporting yesterday.

"I'll have to play a couple games but these feel pretty good. It's not that big of a difference," he said.

That 'no-worries' attitude came through again about the expectations that'll be placed upon the goaltender who signed a three-year, $10-million US pact last month, forgoing two years of unrestricted free agency.

"We'll see. That's what I'll try to do here. Our defence looks pretty good and they're going to help me out," he said.

Obviously, first and foremost to Kiprusoff's performance this season, will be how prepared he is. Thus the decision to hit the ice instead of hitting the links.

"I'm in pretty good shape," he said between huffs and puffs. "It's always tough the first week. It's hard to breathe because it's a little higher than sea level. I think I'm ready on Monday."

That's when the veterans report for fitness testing. The first on-ice session will be Tuesday morning.

Even though Kiprusoff worked his magic with Timra of the Swedish Elite League during the lockout, his excitement to be back in Calgary is evident.

"It was a long year. It's great it's back again. I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I can't wait for the season to start. The team looks pretty good. I think it's gonna be great. It's lots of new players but it looks real good on paper. I think it's going to be a hard-working team again. I believe in our team."

Even if he'd rather be fishing instead of joining them on the course.

- - -

ICE CHIPS: Top prospect Dion Phaneuf, Mark Giordano, Cam Cunning and Brandon Rogers all scored to lead Team Black to a 4-1 win over the Red squad in a prospects scrimmage yesterday.


Videos

Photos