SUN Hockey Pool

Release the hound

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Curtis Joseph has seen before a reaction like the one he witnessed in his first day as a Calgary Flame.

Remember, the club's new goaltender played for the Maple Leafs in Toronto, aka The Centre of the Universe.

Still, the attention garnered by him upon signing with the club was up there.

"Oh, I'm happy to see that," he said after yesterday's morning skate. "Hockey matters here. It's one of the reasons I wanted to come here. It's hockey, hockey, hockey and a great environment."

However, Day 2 brought some normalcy to his life, and a chance for it to sink in he was again on a NHL team following the two whirlwind days he spent making the trek to Calgary, settling in, going through the medical tests and then meeting his new teammates.

"Now my main focus is not answering questions and that, it's how I feel on the ice," he said. "That's what I'm focusing on, how do I get better, get back quickly. That's my main focus.

"You're not going to get this calibre of shooters anywhere, they're all busy working. You give them an inch, they take it, so you've got to be not giving them those inches."

Which begs the question:How long that will take? When can fans expect to see Joseph between the pipes looking for the victory that will tie him with the immortal Terry Sawchuk for fourth spot on the NHL's all-time list with 447?

"It's hard to say. It's the same with going over to the Spengler Cup," he said. "I was wondering how many days it would take for me to be ready, and every day is different. It took me a couple of days, I felt better, and the third or fourth day, it was feeling OK."

Head coach Mike Keenan said yesterday morning he didn't plan to give Joseph game action until after the all-star break, but noted the team does have a "crowded schedule" following the break, with 32 games down the stretch -- including five sets of back-to-back clashes.

Certainly at least a half dozen starts for Joseph, barring an injury to himself or No.-1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, doesn't seem crazy.

"You should know better than to ask that question. I have no plan when it comes to goaltenders," Keenan said. "The situation will dictate that. Curtis McElhinney went in (goal) in Nashville and played exceptionally well. I was very proud of him.

"I don't have any plans right now in terms of the rotation, how it's gonna work out. It's a day-by-day assessment."

Speaking of McElhinney, who served as the back-up goalie for the bulk of the season prior to Joseph's arrival, Keenan had nothing but praise for the rookie who started only one of the first 48 contests and saw action in five games before being dispatched to the AHL.

"It was a tough situation for him to be in, a young goaltender you're trying to acclimate to the NHL, you're trying to make him NHL ready," Keenan said. "It was a tough assignment because Miikka was struggling a little bit with his game and we're trying to stay in the race, so there were a lot of circumstances that didn't unfold for him and weren't conducive to his development. It's good's he's gonna play because he's a young goalie and he's a talented goalie, and he's very dedicated and very professional.

"He showed us in that last game that he was probably ready, and I told him he should be ready because in the playoffs you need three goalies."


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