SUN Hockey Pool

In-crease or de-crease Kipper's workload?

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

As usual, Miikka Kiprusoff ducked out of garbage-bag day instead of addressing the media, leaving a big question up in the air.

Should the Calgary Flames goalie have had more rest instead of playing 76 games and six playoff games?

Maybe he was grabbing some shut-eye while teammates were explaining what happened in a first-round playoff exit against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kiprusoff said after Monday's Game 6 loss the heavy workload had nothing to do with his performance, but there has to be a reason he wasn't his usual sharp self down the stretch.

He was yanked in a 5-1 Game 5 loss in the Windy City.

Of the question marks the Flames have this off-season is what to do about a backup goalie.

Unless Kiprusoff takes a reduced schedule, who wants a job where you only play about once a month during the regular season?

If it was up to Kiprusoff, he would play every game, but that's where the coach comes in.

Just because the 32-year-old wants to play so much doesn't mean he should.

"I asked Miikka throughout the season if he wanted a break, and he would prefer to play than not play," said Flames bench boss Mike Keenan yesterday when asked about the situation.

"In terms of backing him off a bit, we would certainly have to look at that. But he's a top goalie and won a great number of games."

Although Kiprusoff set a career high in wins with 45, his goals-against average (2.84) and save percentage (.903) were the worst since joining the Flames.

For the second straight year, he appeared in 76 contests after two seasons in which he played 74 each.

Curtis McElhinney had the backup's role this season and had to make the most of six starts.

The pending unrestricted free agent didn't manage to get his first NHL victory until the season-finale against the Edmonton Oilers, but the team didn't play well in front of him all year.

Although McElhinney has the option of leaving to find work elsewhere, the Calgary native is comfortable here even in a difficult situation.

Whether the team wants him back remains to be seen.

"I could either let it eat away at me or remain positive about it and be a team player," McElhinney said. "It's certainly a tough position to play backup, especially behind Kip.

"You're sitting there trying to convince everybody you're a legitimate NHL goalie and that you can get the job done for the team.

"When the win finally came, it was a big relief. It was one of those things that it's a nice way to head into the summer for me personally."


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