SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper's OK with criticism

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

Anybody expecting Miikka Kiprusoff to be spitting angry would be disappointed.

Same thing goes for those who figured the Calgary Flames goaltender was livid with the roasting he received from head coach Mike Keenan.

No, Kiprusoff was his usual unflappable self yesterday, and denied any rift between him and Keenan has developed.

"No. I've never had a problem with my coaches," Kiprusoff said after yesterday's practice at the Saddledome. "You're a goalie, you have to get used to that. That's how it usually goes. For me, it's not something I worry about. I have do my job and that's to help the team to win."

Kiprusoff was targeted by Keenan after Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the netminder -- whose sub-par season has been blamed for much of the team's terrible start -- wasn't dodging blame.

"Every team is so close, it's so tight, you pretty much need good goaltending if you want to win any game in this league," he said. "It's a team sport. Everything goes together, but I have to take it. If I'm able to make key saves early in the game, that gives our team confidence and don't give up too many so the other team has to chase us.

"I have to make the key saves at the key times of the game."

For his part, Keenan didn't back down yesterday of his assessment regarding the netminder, saying Kiprusoff has been the first to say he must turn his game around.

"There was a comment made in the room, without disclosing who said it, 'We're surprised it hasn't come out earlier,' so I think we've been very patient in terms of what our expectations are," Keenan said.

"But we're at a point now everyone knows certain individuals have the capabilities of producing and have the capabilities of contributing to the team and that's what we expect of them. And we have to be all accountable to each other.

"He's not the first Vezina Trophy winner that I've coached to have a down cycle in his game," he continued.

"He has to stay with it and work at it. "

Which is what Kiprusoff -- who has a sub-standard 3.00 goals-against average along with a .884 save percentage -- insists he's doing constantly with goalie coach David Marcoux.

For starters, though, he insists he hasn't lost his confidence.

"I feel confident," he insisted. "Of course, if you win more games it's easier. Pro sports, it's up and downs but you have to be able to work your way out of those situations. The only way to do that is move forward and work hard."

Seeing as the Flames are the worst team in the league in save percentage, it's not hard to see Kiprusoff hasn't been doing that. The team is No. 3 in average shots allowed, yet only a few teams have surrendered more goals.

Keenan insisted the lack of an experienced back-up isn't an issue, and believes Kiprusoff should keep playing and turn his game around -- as was the case this season for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.

"We have to have him at his best, he needs to be at his best and he should be at his best. You don't take a forward out of the lineup because he hasn't scored a goal. You tell him to go in there and do his job," Keenan said. "I think it's part of the cycles athletes go through, and the good ones challenge themselves and raise their game and meet those expectations. The good ones can do it and the ones that are average can't. I suspect he can do it."


Videos

Photos