Kiprusoff rock-solid

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

The pass was right on the tape.

Seeing as it came from Jarome Iginla, the Calgary Flames star chasing the NHL scoring crown, that should be no surprise. The problem was the recipient in Friday night's affair against the L.A. Kings.

Receiving the puck, alone in the slot, was Kings left winger Raitis Ivanans. Understandable if Ivanans botched the pass -- out of surprise, not because his hands are more used to slugging it out than scoring goals -- but he managed a shot that was repelled by Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff.

Unfortunately, Kiprusoff couldn't corral the rebound before Derek Armstrong tallied the Kings' lone goal in the Flames' 6-1 victory.

Another Kiprusoff shutout attempt vanquished this season.

"He definitely owes him dinner on the road," Conroy said of Iginla's penance for such a glaring miscue. "But Miikka never leaves the room, so that's a tough one to do."

Sounds like a good idea. Maybe a good steak at, say, Ruth's Chris Steak House?

"He's too cheap," chided Kiprusoff, who moments earlier didn't even realize who coughed up the puck. "What can you do? It's hockey."

In a warped way, the turn of events can be seen as a good sign.

If the opposition needs that much help to put a puck past Kiprusoff because he's playing that well, the Flames won't complain.

The way he's minded the twine the last couple of outings, Kiprusoff sure seems to be back to his Vezina Trophy form.

Even amidst the elation of Friday's one-sided victory -- which gives the Flames a two-game winning streak heading into their next action Tuesday against Minnesota -- Kiprusoff's teammates are noticing the netminder, who's gone through an erractic season, appears on track.

"Oh, yeah, and you gotta enjoy that," Conroy said. "When he starts to be that way, you can tell it's coming. It started in practice, two or three weeks ago, he was making all those saves to a T. Now, he's making them in a game. He's looking great right now.

"It's fun to watch."

Fun for the players. Fun for the coaches. Fun for the fans.

That standing ovation midway through the third period proved the love-affair between the faithful and Kiprusoff is indeed back on.

At times this season -- with Kiprusoff's save percentage below .900 and goals-against average close to 3.00 -- more often you heard Bronx Cheers.

"I was in Montreal when the crowd gave it to Patrick (Roy) and he left. And it's never been the same," Conroy said. "It's such a fine line. When people think of Miikka, it's the superstar. It's like they think he never gets scored on. Those saves he made (Friday), it's like he's expected to make them every night, and it doesn't always happen.

"As hard as the crowd can be on him some nights, it's great they appreciate what he does. Besides, he's doing his best out there, we know that. If we were doing more, helping him, it wouldn't have been like it was for him."

Kiprisoff knows his game is coming together.

"I felt pretty good again," he admitted, before turning the praise elsewhere. "But even like against Minnesota, we played a smart game. It wasn't like I had a lot of two-on-ones or stuff like that. We played really smart in my own end. It was a lot of shots but guys really did the right things.

"I played better, too."

ICE CHIPS

The Flames will hold their annual skills competition starting at 11 a.m. today. Proceeds from tickets will go to the Flames Foundation ... GM Darryl Sutter was on-hand at last night's Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens clash.


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