SUN Hockey Pool

Cujo craving leaves McElhinney in limbo

Curtis Joseph practices at the Air Canada Centre February 12, 1999. (Sun photo by Mike Cassese)

Curtis Joseph practices at the Air Canada Centre February 12, 1999. (Sun photo by Mike Cassese)

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

If CuJo bites, another Curtis will feel the sting.

While Curtis Joseph mulls over his options for a return to the NHL, Calgary Flames backup backstop Curtis McElhinney is still waiting for a chance to show coaches and management the 40-year-old's services aren't needed.

McElhinney has started just one game this season. He surrendered two goals in the Nov. 25 contest against the St. Louis Blues -- a 3-0 loss that included an empty-netter in the dying minutes -- and has appeared in just two games since.

In the meantime, he's been practising, waiting patiently and sucking in all the NHL atmosphere he can.

Knowing the team feels it has a chance to make a run in the playoffs, McElhinney also understands why the Flames are kicking CuJo's tires.

"I guess it's just part of hockey at this level. He's a goalie with a tremendous amount of experience in the league, and he's done pretty well for himself," said McElhinney after an optional skate yesterday at Westside Rec Centre.

"I can't dwell on it too much, I guess. I'm still pretty young at this point, so whatever happens I'll just go with the flow and make the best of the situation.

"I've had a tremendous experience being here so far, and I hope I get the opportunity to stay here till the end of the year, too."

If Joseph decides to join the Flames instead of the San Jose Sharks or some other late bidder, McElhinney won't have that luxury.

He'd likely return to the AHL, play and continue to jostle for position in a crowded group of young goaltenders the team has been stockpiling over the past few years.

Stanley Cup-hungry Joseph would then become Miikka Kiprusoff's backup.

Competition for time between the pipes would then become a reality.

Nobody is suggesting Joseph would snatch the No. 1 title away from the former Vezina Trophy winner. But with a raw rookie like McElhinney behind him and a fat new contract filling his bank account, a little added incentive isn't the worst idea when it comes to the cool-as-cucumber Kiprusoff.

Experience is essential to a team that believes it's in contention for a title. The Flames could be one injury away from uncertainty, and both general manager Darryl Sutter and coach Mike Keenan spoke of the benefit of time served Friday when a report pegged Calgary and San Jose the front-runners for Joseph's services.

Keenan also confirmed he had spoken with his former Blues goalie about the benefits of coming to Cowtown.

"If he chooses us, it would add depth to the position," said Keenan. "I think that's important, because after the (all-star) break, we've got 32 games."


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