SUN Hockey Pool

Keenan slims down roster to put team to test

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

With five games and 12 days remaining before the regular season opens, the Calgary Flames have plenty of time to pick their team.

But head coach Mike Keenan is wasting none of it.

The Flames have two goalies, eight defencemen and 17 forwards remaining in camp, meaning Keenan has almost whittled down his group. (Goaltender Brent Krahn and left winger Brandon Prust officially remain in camp, but are both injured and won't be healthy enough to play on opening day.)

Though he could have kept a few more players, Keenan opted to get close to his final squad early to start building a team.

"We've still got a lot of work to do," he said. "As you start to pare the group down, you can start putting pairings together or line combinations together and move forward.

"We're still looking at four or five youngsters, so it's something we'll evaluate every day. As you eliminate the roster more, it becomes more of a tighter group and they start to learn their roles."

By having the bulk of the team chosen, the plan is to knock off the rust and be prepared for the Oct. 4 home opener against Philadelphia.

Makes sense, said defenceman Anders Eriksson.

"I think any team in the National Hockey League knows the core group of guys they want. The quicker you cut down, the better you can get to know each other and become a tight group," he said.

Expect to see more of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff than in previous pre-seasons, too.

Krahn will likely have to go to the minors to get back on track, meaning unless the Flames acquire another goalie, Kiprusoff and Curtis McElhinney will split the five remaining games.


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