SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper travels Zen-like path

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Relax. Take a deep breath and clear your head of all negative thoughts.

That's Miikka Kiprusoff's routine when a puck gets by him.

It's also good advice for anyone questioning the Calgary Flames goaltender's ability based on one-and-a-half games of less-than-Vezina worthy play this pre-season.

There are two aspects to preparing for professional hockey: Physical and mental. Sitting in his stall at the Saddledome yesterday, less than 24 hours after allowing five goals on 21 shots, Kiprusoff acknowledged the physical part returns quicker.

"It's a little bit like that," said the unflappable Finn. "Of course you want to win in pre-season but the biggest thing there is to get your timing right in game situations and get used to your new (defencemen)."

There's little doubt when the regular season starts, Kiprusoff will return to form.

It's just tough to imagine that after a game like the 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night.

"It was a bad game for me," said Kiprusoff shortly before a video session with goaltending coach David Marcoux. "You can take it a positive way, too. You can learn from that."

Kiprusoff can't take the blame for all five goals he allowed in the loss. While he isn't yet in peak form and seemed to have some trouble spotting pucks through the crowd, communication breakdowns were obvious.

And developing and maintaining a healthy dialogue with the rearguards is the most important part of a netminder's exhibition schedule.

"If you want to have a good defensive team, that's the biggest thing. You have to talk a lot," said Kiprusoff. "Through the whole year, you always learn."

Minutes before his video review with Kiprusoff was set to begin, Marcoux weighed in on the pre-season routine for goaltenders.

"He's building a foundation. Right now, his mindset is Oct. 5 and to get Jim Playfair his first win as an NHL coach," said Marcoux, adding the team learned its lesson from a slow start last year and will give Kipper a full extra game this pre-season.

Based on what he saw Wednesday, Marcoux said there were some positive signs in Kiprusoff's play.

"I was happy to see him have success on breakaways. He wants to be better in those situations so that was good.

"Where he can improve and where the team can improve is when he goes out to play the puck. Everybody has to be on the same page for it to work.

"His competitiveness to search for pucks, even though there's one or two screens in front of him, he has to battle more for that. He knows that."

Maybe most important of all is re-engaging the mental aspect of the position -- being able to relax, then become completely alert.

"Those are the feelings of an intimidating goaltender that are coming back right now," said Marcoux.

"Everyone knows that Miikka Kiprusoff can do it. He's a top goaltender in this league."


Videos

Photos