SUN Hockey Pool

No rust on Kipper

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Two straight seasons of slow starts for the Flames and himself has Miikka Kiprusoff's attention.

This year, the Calgary Flames star netminder arrived in Calgary and worked with goalie coach David Marcoux for a couple of weeks before camp.

All in the quest to be the best he can when the games start in earnest.

"I know I have to be better from the start. I've been working lots for that," Kiprusoff said.

The first test came in last night's pre-season tilt and Kiprusoff put in a strong effort through 40 minutes.

He surrendered one goal in the 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, but looked well on his way to being a Vezina-calibre netminder by stopping 14 shots.

"He seemed sharp," said defenceman David Hale. "He's making plays to the 'D' giving us outlet passes and helping us on the PK. I thought he was sharp, for sure."

Kiprusoff was called into action early when Vancouver's Ryan Kesler broke in alone in the opening moments, but he made the stop and played well from there.

Alex Edler's screened point shot late in the second period was the lone puck to beat Kiprusoff.

"After this game it's easier," said Kiprusoff, who originally was going to play only half the game but ended up in net for two full periods. "I know what I have to do. It's a lot of little things I have to work on. Otherwise I feel pretty good. It's easier to practice."

Vancouver's No.-1 goaltender, Roberto Luongo, also saw action for the first time this pre-season, and was showing his fine form early with a 14-save performance that ended a little more than halfway into the game.

Curtis McElhinney replaced Kiprusoff for the third period, and had a tough outing. Jason Jaffray batted a rebound past him in his first flurry of action, and then he was beat for powerplay goals by Michael Grabner and Ryan Shannon.

The Flames are winless in the pre-season, with a pair of shutout defeats and a shootout loss. They've only scored twice.

Head coach Mike Keenan isn't ready to read the riot act.

"I don't know if I'd say concerned. I'm aware of it," Keenan said. "But in my first year (in Philadelphia), we played 11 pre-season games and won none. We went on to win the President's Trophy and went to the finals, so I don't know if that means anything or not."

Hale said it's not something to totally brush aside.

"That's why most of the guys are here. We're competitive and we want to win," Hale said. "We're not just gonna blow it off. It's not like it means something towards our record but there's definitely a pride factor that goes into it."

Calgary iced a lineup that didn't include Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius or Robyn Regehr, while the Canucks went without the Sedin twins, as well as Brendan Morrison and Kevin Bieksa.

Still, the game showed the rivalry is alive and well.

Flames enforcer Eric Godard took a pair of double minors, as well as a 10-minute misconduct in the hard-hitting affair.

The lone scrap featured Calgary's Warren Peters and Vancouver's Nathan McIver.

"There were a lot of kids in the line-up for both teams trying to make the hockey club," Keenan said.


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