Kip! Hip! No way!

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:04 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- A hip injury has forced Miikka Kiprusoff out of the Olympics.

However, the Calgary Flames refused to say yesterday how the ailment might impact them.

Kiprusoff, hours after being named to Finland's squad, announced he'd chosen to forego the Turin Games, citing an inflamed hip which he plans to rest during the two-week February break.

"It is in the best interest of the Calgary Flames that I use this opportunity to ensure I am totally recovered for the NHL playoff drive," he said in a statement.

"I have always been very proud to represent my country in international competition and I'm disappointed I will not be joining them in the Olympics in Italy."

Kiprusoff chose not to comment further on his decision yesterday.

He wasn't alone in silence, as GM/head coach Darryl Sutter also wouldn't comment on his netminder's health or status in coming games.

Kiprusoff has been a workhorse for the Flames this season, having played in 30 of the team's 36 games and seen more minutes of action than any other goalie in the NHL.

In all his time -- 1,776 minutes -- he's posted a 2.23 goals-against average and .913 save percentage to go with a 16-10-4 record and league-best five shutouts.

He has been taking more and more time after games for treatment over the past few weeks, signs he's been trying to play through the injury. However, it's obvious the injury is worrisome enough for Kiprusoff, in the first season of a three-year, $10-million US contract, to make what will be an unpopular decision in his homeland.

With him between the pipes at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Finland reached the championship final before losing to Canada.

The Flames begin a stretch tonight of 23 games in 50 days. After the Olympic break, they play 25 games in 49 days.

Sutter, who said he'd speak on the situation today prior to his team's clash with the Vancouver Canucks (8 p.m., CBC), wouldn't divulge whether he expects Kiprusoff to play tonight or if he'll turn to Philippe Sauve.

Although Kiprusoff is among the NHL leaders in all the goaltender categories, there have been signs suggesting Kiprusoff is not at the top of his game.

He surrendered five goals Monday night in Edmonton in an admitted sub-par performance, while allowing another four in Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Prior to that, he'd surrendered

12 goals in eight games.

Combined with the other developments yesterday, that leaves the Flames with three players on the road to Turin.

Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr have been selected to Canada's squad, while Jordan Leopold was chosen for Team U.S.A.

Roman Hamrlik was left off the Czech Republic's list yesterday, as was Marcus Nilson with Sweden.

Hamrlik is currently nursing a knee injury that will keep him out at least another couple of weeks.

He said his health will dictate whether he can be a replacement if needed.

"I talked to one of the coaches and he said if I started playing before the Olympics and feel good, he might take me," Hamrlik said yesterday. "It's everyone's dream to play for the Olympics. I've been two times and it's a lot of fun. But we'll see."

He was part of 1998's gold-medal winning squad.

Nilson, who always seems to be playing through some sort of pain because of his fearlessness, wasn't surprised he'd been left off Sweden's side.

"I'm not disappointed at all," he said. "It would have been fun to go but I'm looking forward to that break and getting ready for the stretch games. I'm not beat up but it's a tight schedule and it's gonna be nice to get a little break."


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