Kiprusoff giant factor in Flames' turnaround

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff is one of the biggest factors in the Flames' turnaround. There's no question the team has played better in front of him over the last couple of months, but he's picked up his play as well.

He's allowed more than three goals against just four times since Nov. 13 and kept it to two or less -- with a pair of shutouts in the mix -- in a dozen of those games.

Jarome Iginla hasn't been dominant as often as he has in years past, but he's averaging more than a point a game once again and still leads the team in goals with 18 at the midway mark.

He's gone through some rough patches but headed into a four-day break with a solid performance against the New York Islanders.

Robyn Regehr is again having himself a stellar year on the back end.

He leads the defence corps with a plus-8 rating, and makes things miserable for the other team's top players.

It hasn't all been rosy for the Flames this season. They got off to a rocky start in October and early November, and their powerplay has let them down far too often this season.

Dion Phaneuf has been their biggest disappointment. Expectations are high, but his point totals are not. He might be more disappointed than anyone with three goals over the first half.

Worse, though, is his minus-8 rating, which is an improvement from the minus-11 he bottomed out at a few games earlier.

Matthew Lombardi was also expected to take a giant leap forward this season, but he's been about as effective as last year. An early-season injury might be a factor, but it's a fair guess we might have seen the best we can expect to get from the speedy 26-year-old.

At least on this team.

Injuries have also dampened the spirits of a few Flames: Brandon Prust is just now getting some solid foods into his diet after breaking his jaw and having a metal plate inserted; D Jim Vandermeer is skating after busting his ankle, but has seen rookie Adam Pardy shine in his absence, which could make it tough to return to a regular role; Wayne Primeau's broken foot stunted what was a promising season for the veteran; and Rhett Warrener may never suit up again because of his tattered shoulder.

Todd Bertuzzi, Michael Cammalleri and Andre Roy are all newcomers who either signed one-year deals or are in the final season of an existing contract.

It's fair to say each of them have done their part in making the Flames a better team than they were a year ago.

Cammalleri is coming off his worst three-game stretch of the season, along with Iginla, but the two played well against the Islanders.

Overall, Cammalleri has been strong offensively with 15 goals and 36 points in 41 games, but is a disappointing minus-7.

He will be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Bertuzzi has been a pleasant surprise. While at times a liability in his own end, he's been a gamebreaker recently, and is a big reason centre Daymond Langkow is riding a seven-game point streak and four consecutive contests with goals. He's hurting with a hip-flexor injury at the moment, but if his health holds up the rest of the way, he could be offered another contract by GM Darryl Sutter.

Roy is no Eric Godard with his fists, but Roy has contributed a couple of goals and some strong play on the fourth line along every inch of the ice. His defensive awareness is pretty good, and he's been a decent playmaker at times, too.

Also fitting in this category are the call-ups: Brett Sutter, Jamie Lundmark, Warren Peters and Mikael Backlund, who each performed well in brief stints.

Maybe the biggest reason for the Flames' surprising success is the addition of Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross. They are key components on an team bursting with depth on the forward ranks.

Bourque netted 15 goals and 29 points over the first 41 games, and Glencross, slowed slightly with a knee injury, scored eight times with 15 helpers in 35 contests.

These guys both had their sights set on becoming 20-goal scorers for the Flames. Bourque is headed for 30.

They play eight back-to-back contests and have a marathon road trip to deal with when the Canadian curling championship comes to Calgary in March.

That trek will take them to seven different cities in two time zones over 12 nights and includes games against the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.

Those kind of obstacles are why it was so important for the Flames to play such a strong first half.

It's been a heck of an engagement with this year's version of the Flames. The honeymoon before the wedding commitment so far.

Let's stick with that theme and take a deeper look at the squad


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