Iggy, Kipper on hot seat

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

It was a good sign for the Calgary Flames to see their newcomers start paying dividends the other night.

Still, it proves there is no doubt which two Flames have the biggest impact on the club's fortunes: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Only two games into the season, the Flames are searching for the first wave of impact from their highest-paid players.

Iginla has been held off the scoresheet in both losses to the Vancouver Canucks to start the season -- although that punch that sent Willie Mitchell to his knees should be worth something -- while Kiprusoff has been lit up for 11 goals.

Rest assured, the dynamic duo plan to make more happen tonight when the Colorado Avalanche hit the Saddledome (7:30 p.m., TSN).

"I don't know if I'll take it upon myself. We all want to be better. I want to be better, have to be better," Iginla said after yesterday's Thanksgiving Day practice. "I look at the powerplay, I get to play a lot of minutes on it, and we haven't produced at all. One goal in each of those games, especially early, would have been a big difference.

"You don't go into it thinking, 'I've got to do this. I've got to do that,' or you start pressing. It's about getting back to the things I want to do -- get skating, drive to the net, hitting the net with shots.

"I look at myself and know all the other guys around the room are looking at themselves, too, and are finding ways to get that first win."

The Flames (0-1-1) are off to a tough start, but the sky isn't quite falling.

At least, not yet.

It took four games for the Flames to record their first victory last season, yet they managed to cobble together a 6-3-3 record by the end of October. (It was November when things crashed and required a push the rest of the way to get back in a playoff spot.)

That history hasn't been lost on the Flames, but Kiprusoff insists he and his teammates can't be too relaxed about dropping the first two games, since two can quickly become three, four or five seemingly in the blink of an eye.

"It's too easy to say, 'There's 80 to go,' but every season you see when we're done all 82 games, it's only one or two points difference (in the standings)," Kiprusoff said. "We have to get those points early, because the whole conference is so close and it gets tougher and tougher.

"Every team has bad stretches in the season, but we have to start getting those points right now."

Tonight's clash won't be a freebie, either.

The Avs have lost both games to start the season, too, but have arguably been the better team in both contests.

They have outshot their opposition by a 72-39 margin but were done in by late goals in both tilts. Oilers winger Dustin Penner scored the winning goal with 5.4 seconds remaining in regulation to hand the Avs a 3-2 loss in Edmonton Sunday night.

There's nothing like a pair of division rivals being desperate to make things interesting.

"We know they're going to be very hungry and that they're disappointed," Iginla said. "No matter who we're playing, we realize we have to be better defensively. Today, we went through our defensive-zone breakdowns and what we need to do better.

"It's something we have to be better at. You can't give up those chances and win games."

Having watched the Avs-Oilers game, Flames head coach Mike Keenan pointed out "goaltending can solve a lot of problems".

Kiprusoff, who can't be blamed solely for his team's poor defensive performance to start the year, said he expects to make more of a difference soon.

"You let in 11 goals in two games and you're a goalie, you can't be happy," Kiprusoff said. "It's little things we have to work on in our own end, but I have to make sure I play the best at my game, too. It's definitely not good enough."


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