SUN Hockey Pool

In Kip-top shape

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

Like some sort of Finnish ninja, Miikka Kiprusoff tossed a smoke bomb and vanished into the cloud at the end of last season.

Trotting through the Saddledome hall yesterday in his workout gear, the Calgary Flames goaltender was all smiles, even knowing the gruelling fitness tests he was set to undergo would likely be followed by an equally draining grilling from media members still waiting for him months after the disappearing act.

Ready for questions about the speculated feud between himself and Flames coach Mike Keenan after a seven-game playoff exit, the 31-year-old puck-stopper joked his way through the process.

"Everything is all right. It's never been anything," said Kiprusoff, who invited Keenan to Finland to coach a charity game this summer.

And no, Kiprusoff didn't get pulled.

"It's more like people outside are talking and saying there is something, but I always thought everything was fine and there's no problems there.

"It was a good thing to see each other outside of hockey a little bit."

It's often been said Kiprusoff is loaded with talent but doesn't take training seriously, especially in the off-season when he returns to Europe. Keenan told the Sun last week he believes his netminder is in good shape. New Flames director of goaltending Jamie McLennan, who also made the trip to Turku this summer, agrees.

"He's prepared. He prepares a different way, but I'll tell you, he skated a lot -- and hopefully that translates into on-ice production," said McLennan. "He goes about his business, whether I was there or Mike comes for a visit. He's a private person who's certainly earned the right to be private."

After returning to Calgary a little earlier than usual prior to the puck dropping last season, Kiprusoff got off to a rocky start for a second straight year. The Flames went 6-8-3, and while it was a team-wide problem out of the gate, the Kiprusoff bashing hit a fever pitch in early November.

Sticking around Turku longer this summer, Kiprusoff also added a little more aerobic activity to his routine.

"I was running a little more than usual. I feel pretty good right now," Kiprusoff said after the fitness testing. "I feel real good right now. I don't know the scores, the test scores, right now, but hopefully those are good, too."

In Turku, Kiprusoff takes to the ice with players like Saku and Mikko Koivu and Sami Salo. Not exactly scrubs.

He also practised with his hometown pro team.

Of course, he found time to relax -- "I always have time to fish," he said with a grin.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter isn't too concerned with the speculation at the end of last season and over the summer.

"He had 39 wins. I don't get too caught up in what people outside say," said Sutter.

"All he needs is a better start than he's had the last two years, and when you have that many wins, that's what's important."

Kiprusoff seems to be focused on doing just that.

"It's always a big thing. Everyone wants to start well," he said. "All points matter.

"You have to be able to start winning right away."


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