Kiprusof-t? No way

Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff's goals-against-average sits at 3.40, to go with an .877 save...

Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff's goals-against-average sits at 3.40, to go with an .877 save percentage heading into tonight's game. (Sun Media File/Alex Urosevic)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

The similarities are striking.

Yet, at the same time, they should come as no surprise.

A half-dozen games into the season, Miikka Kiprusoff's efforts give you a scary sense of deja vu.

Heading into tonight's meeting with the Los Angeles Kings at the Saddledome, the Calgary Flames netminder's goals-against-average sits at 3.40, to go with an .877 save percentage.

Last season, after six games, the Flames star goaltender had a 3.01 average and a .901 save percentage. And in the 2005-06 campaign, Kiprusoff started with a 3.67 average and .833 save percentage.

It wasn't supposed to be this way for Kiprusoff, who is in the final year of his contract and reportedly looking for a long-term deal paying around US$7 million per season.

He arrived for training camp a couple of weeks earlier to work out with coaches in preparation. He played extra pre-season games to help find his form.

Yet, the numbers are remarkably similar. Again.

"The numbers I look at are wins and points, and I'm not totally happy with those," Kiprusoff said yesterday.

"Yeah, I want to be better. It doesn't matter what part of the year, I want to be better and try to be better. I don't think 'It's this part of the year.' It's next game. You can't think about the past."

But the past has been rather unkind to Kiprusoff. Skewing his numbers is the handful of goals that have gone in off teammates this season -- three last game in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Those are bad breaks and reflective on his teammates, so it's not time for panic.

Kiprusoff isn't panicking. In fact, he believes his game is coming together.

"I felt pretty strong," he said. "There were some weird goals, and it was a tough night, but I feel pretty good."

Let it be known, last year's fellow Vezina Trophy finalists -- Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo -- aren't tearing it up at this point, either.

Still, Kiprusoff hasn't exactly been on his game.

He's surrendered a handful of goals that could be termed 'poor,' including the game-tying marker against the Avs.

Considering he's set high expectations with incredible results in the past, it's understandable why fans are asking for better.

"I know I can play better, and we know we can -- and have to -- play better, so there's lot of work to do," he said. "It's how you think about it. We came back from a road trip, and it was a tough loss. But a road trip like that last year would have been great for us. As a player, you have to get some positives.

"We know we all can be better. It's not that bad."

Nobody within the Flames organization is panicking. After all, they've seen Kiprusoff find his form by the end of October to be a Vezina finalist three consecutive seasons.

"I guess in order to be comforted, you have to be worried -- at least that's what comes to my mind -- and we're not really worried about Kip," said captain Jarome Iginla. "We know how good he is. We've played with him and seen what kind of a competitor he is, and we haven't been as good as we can be for him.

"Last game, three went in off our guys, and that's not goaltending. In our minds, he's the best goalie in the world, and we've got to help him out."

Head coach Mike Keenan is also stressing patience.

"Believe it or not, I've been patient in the past, regardless of what anyone tells you," he said. "You have a lot more patience when you have a Vezina Trophy winner on your hands than when you don't."

Naturally, there are questions whether his contract status is coming into play. Due to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, Kiprusoff's agent Larry Kelly and Flames GM Darryl Sutter have been trying to put together a deal.

Even with a middling season, you can be guaranteed another team will be willing to throw a truckload of money at Kiprusoff should he be free to pick and choose come July.

"I know what's going on, and we'll see what's gonna happen," Kiprusoff said. "But it doesn't bug me at all."


Videos

Photos