SUN Hockey Pool

McElhinney knows his role

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:42 PM ET

Curtis McElhinney gave up months ago on guessing when he'd get the call.

While this weekend appeared to be prime opportunity to give Miikka Kiprusoff a game off, Mike Keenan suggested Friday his starting goaltender has had plenty of recent rest and is about to get even more with the upcoming all-star break.

So the backup sits. He waits. Then he waits some more.

But he doesn't anticipate. McElhinney just reacts.

"I think I got into that last year a little bit. I'd get my hopes up, and, sure enough, they'd come right back with (Kiprusoff)," said the 25-year-old backstop with two starts so far this season.

"Now, I'm a little more even-keeled about it."

Looking at three games in four nights, with the first two being late starts in different time zones and tonight's finale in Denver coming less than 24 hours after last night's home game at the Saddledome, it'd be easy to assume McElhinney would be suiting up.

Keenan, though, said the team would re-assess Kiprusoff's workload after the all-star game, when the schedule is compressed.

Of course, that's always subject to change.

There have been times McElhinney was told he may be going, only to have Kiprusoff jump right back between the pipes.

"I guess it all depends on how he's really feeling. If he feels comfortable playing back-to-back on short travel, that's great," said McElhinney. "Who's going to complain when they're playing this well in front of him? We've been rolling pretty good here, and I'm sure we want to continue that into the break."

McElhinney does keep his eyes on a few things. He picks spots where he may get a spot start but just keeps a level head about it these days.

"There's always those certain games where it's a quick turnaround and there's some travel involved," he said.

"But it's always a maybe."

Maybe more important than his next start is when McElhinney's next start at home will be. His next start at the Saddledome would be his first at home in the regular season. And home ice is actually home for the Calgarian.

"It's fun playing in this building. I've done it a few times in the pre-season, but obviously it's a little bit different when it comes to regular-season games," said McElhinney. "At this point, I don't really complain where I play. I'm happy if it's on the road."

The trend for backups in today's NHL, at least the ones playing behind guys like Kiprusoff who start nearly every contest, is for them to dress mostly for road games in back-to-back situations.

McElhinney isn't sure why they don't get the home starts.

"It's tough to say," he said. "I know the last couple of years, we've done incredibly well at home. We've had a pretty good record. I don't want to say that your opportunity to win is any less with me in net or anything, but we've had so much success with him in net playing at home, I'm sure they'd like to maintain that home record."


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