SUN Hockey Pool

It's now or never

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

You can pardon Brent Krahn for not being too thrilled to see Jamie McLennan back in the Calgary Flames' fold.

It's nothing personal against McLennan -- in fact, teammates rave about the affable goalie. It's just his return puts something of a wall in front of Krahn's NHL dream.

Hoping of landing the backup goaltender job in Calgary, Krahn knew that with Miikka Kiprusoff as the lone netminder with NHL experience, his chance was very good prior to McLennan's signing.

However, Krahn -- a former standout with the WHL Calgary Hitmen -- is now likely to start another season in AHL Omaha.

"I kind of expected something like that, it's the nature of the game," said Krahn, who'll join a group of 43 rookies beginning their portion of training camp today.

"There's nothing given to you and I expected them to go out and get somebody. That's the way it goes. I've got to be positive, work hard and not let that deter me from my ultimate goal of making the team.

"Disappointed? No. It gives me more motivation to crack the squad."

The coming season has the makings of a make-it-or-break-it campaign for Krahn, the Flames' first-round draft pick in 2000.

The club has been patient with his development, which has been hampered by a pair of serious knee injuries.

However, with a handful of goalies in the system nipping at his heels and Krahn's 25th birthday coming in the spring of 2007, the goalie must prove he's ready to take the next step sooner rather than later.

It may not mean supplanting McLennan as the backup this fall but certainly proving he'll be ready a year from now.

"I've been around a long time now and really want to make my move, open some eyes," said Krahn.

"I want to make it tough on management."

Last year's performance with the expansion Knights didn't quite do the job.

Though third in the AHL with a 2.50 goals-against average -- and a .912 save percentage -- in 57 games, Krahn was dogged by inconsistency.

For the first half of the season, he didn't perform as expected, both by the organization and himself.

He put it together down the stretch.

"If you want to be a NHL goalie, you have to be consistent," Krahn said.

"Last year, I started off slow and got better as the season went on but it's too late by then. To be a professional, you've got to be consistent. That's been a challenge for me and I'm working to correct that to make the next step."

Krahn thinks he knows how to do that.

"I found the more games I played down the stretch, the better I felt. I know that's not going to be the case all the time. There will be stretches I don't play," he said. "It's about being sharp on the bench, having really good practices and not thinking too much.

"Sometimes when you don't play for a while, you get in a net and start thinking, 'OK, I've got to make this save and got to make that save,' and you think yourself out of the game. I have to learn to just relax and be confident I can do it.

"I know how I can play. It's just a matter of taking that feeling all season long."

If you think it means Krahn is feeling strained over trying to prove something to Flames, guess again.

It's the opposite, a lesson learned from last season.

Knowing it was his first chance to be the No. 1 goalie since his junior days in Calgary, Krahn struggled because of self-inflicted expectations.

"I put way too much pressure on myself and wasn't having fun. I was thinking I had to do so much because I was a number one guy and just thought myself out of my confidence," he explained.

"The last half of the season, I learned to take it easy and not be my own worst enemy. Being a number one guy is a lot different than I thought it would be."


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