VANCOUVER -- Calgary Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter fully expects Miikka Kiprusoff to be at his disposal through to the Olympic break and beyond, despite a hip ailment that forced him out of the Games.
Although the Flames goaltender has begged off the tournament, Sutter made it known he expects Kiprusoff to continue to play for the Flames as much as possible.
"I wasn't planning on giving him seven weeks off to prepare for the Olympics if he was gonna play, so I don't think it'll change now," Sutter said after yesterday's morning skate.
Kiprusoff, who was between the pipes for Calgary's 6-5 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night, didn't speak to the media before the contest.
Within hours of being named to Finland's Olympic squad Thursday, Kiprusoff announced he was declining the invitation to play in Turin.
He has been battling the injury for a few weeks but the team doesn't expect it to worsen.
Resting for more than two weeks during the Olympic break would make him better off to handle the heavy schedule of games down the stretch -- 25 in 49 days -- as well as any playoff action.
Kiprusoff is in the first season of a three-year, $10-million US contract but Sutter stated the club's No. 1 netminder wasn't forced to withdraw from the February tournament.
"It's his decision," Sutter said.
Heading into last night's action, Kiprusoff had played more minutes (1,776) than any other NHL goaltender. He's among the leaders in goals-against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts.
However, he was victimized for nine goals in a pair of losses earlier this week, including an admitted sub-par performance in Edmonton.
Although Finland's chances of winning Olympic gold diminish without Kiprusoff, Flames captain Jarome Iginla said he'd prefer the netminder be in tip-top health for both the tournament and the NHL campaign.
"He's one of the best goalies and any team he's on definitely benefits," Iginla said. "We want him healthy."
Kiprusoff's withdrawal came as a shock to his countrymen who'll toil for Finland, especially with the tournament still seven weeks away.
And, Canucks defenceman Sami Salo pointed out it will cause great disappointment -- and backlash from fans and media -- in their homeland.
"It'll be big news there," said the defenceman who found out yesterday morning Kiprusoff wouldn't be playing. "He played so well in the World Cup and in the NHL he's done an awesome job with Calgary.
"I think there's going to be a lot of backlash. I know from last year we played in Sweden, myself, Kipper and Aki Berg, and didn't go to the world championships. We had good reasons and still there was a lot of backlash.
"There's gonna be a lot of sour people. When we hear the full story, it'll be probably easier to swallow."