SUN Hockey Pool

Hip-hip hooray for Kipper

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:16 PM ET

The hip wasn't the issue for Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

It was the feet.

All thanks to new blades.

Kiprusoff, who begged off the Olympics due to a nagging hip injury, returned to practise with his teammates yesterday at 100%, or as close to it in terms of his ailment.

His feet were a bit sore, though.

"They feel pretty bad, actually," Kiprusoff admitted after yesterday's hour-long session at Max Bell Centre.

"I hate to have new skates but it's a good time to do it now."

At least he has a few more days to get that part of his life to perfection, without game action until Tuesday when the Vancouver Canucks come calling.

But, with the regular season stretch drive looming, Flames fans can feel confident the star netminder's hip is A-OK.

"It's a little hard to say," Kiprusoff said when asked how his hip was feeling after the session. "Ten days without skating, you feel a little stiff anyway. It wasn't pain in my hip right now and hopefully it's gonna be like that.

"But I'm going to be smart for a couple of days. It didn't bother me that much.

"It'll be easier to say in a couple of days how it is."

Like so many of his Flames teammates, Kiprusoff returned to the Stampede City rested and relaxed.

He spent a chunk of the break in Hawaii with girlfriend Seidi and their 10-month old son, Aaro.

Time spent enjoying the sun and surf has the No.-1 netminder rejuvenated and he needed it.

Through the team's first 57 games, Kiprusoff has played 51 of them, compiling 2,989 minutes of action.

The acquisition of Brian Boucher just before the break will allow the Flames to spell off Kiprusoff down the stretch -- a necessity with 25 games in 49 nights -- but there's no doubt who is expected to see the bulk of the action between now and the regular season finale April 17.

The break also gave him a chance to become excited about the next seven weeks of game action, plus whatever comes his way in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Of course I'm excited but we have to go one game at a time, anyways," said the netminder who's near the league leaders in all the major categories after a slow start to the season.

"It's 25 games but it's still so close, we have to concentrate on the first game against Vancouver."

While he's not in Turin with his fellow Finns, Kiprusoff is there in spirit and is thrilled to see his countrymen have reached the semifinal.

After all, more than a few pundits figured Finland would have a tough time without him.

But he shrugged off any such talk.

"It's great to see they're playing well. I hope they go all the way," he said. "I've only seen one game, so it's hard to say why they're doing well."

Of course, that's when one of his Flames teammates threw out the answer -- the netminding of Antti Niittymaki -- which Kiprusoff was more than happy to reiterate.

"Yeah, great goaltending, like always," he said with a devilish grin.

Just like the Flames and their fans are expecting from him.


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