SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper back in groove

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Having seen Miikka Kiprusoff regularly provide stellar bounce-back performances in his first season with the Calgary Flames, it might have been asking too much for more of the same this time around. Apparently not.

On the heels of a disappointing season opener, Kiprusoff was back to his old self, allowing only one goal in last night's 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"Many times, it's our team, too," said Kiprusoff, victim of five goals in the season-opening loss at Minnesota. "Look at how we played today. It's not just my bounce-back because they just played great. We had 40 shots on them and had the puck all the time."

Granted, the shot clock doesn't make it look like the most difficult contest the Flames goaltender has seen -- he blocked 19 of 20 pucks fired his way -- but that doesn't mean he easily cruised to the victory.

He had to deny Gilbert Brule on a two-on-one late in the second period.

He also was called upon in the dying minutes, while the score was 2-1 Flames, for a pair of clutch stops on Jan Hrdina.

And he had to do it with long gaps between action, as the Flames fired 38 shots on Blue Jackets netminder Marc Denis.

"That's a goalie's life," Kiprusoff said. "We usually complain they didn't shoot enough or shooting too much, it's never good enough.

"That's how it goes and you just have to be ready. It's better that way than a lot of shots."

While the Flames are under the scrutiny as a whole, with Stanley Cup predictions coming from everywhere, perhaps no single player will be watched more closely than Kiprusoff.

He knows there are those who wonder if his breakthrough campaign -- complete with 1.69 goals-against average -- was a mirage, and that the pressure's on.

Still, nobody's expectations will be higher than his own.

"I wasn't happy after my game in Minnesota. I didn't play well," he said. "It was a different game, too. We played a better game as a group, a lot better puck control ... It was a good Flames hockey game."


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