SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper out to start for Finns

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- If the Finnish federation comes calling, Miikka Kiprusoff will be happy to backstop his country's Olympic hopes in Vancouver.

But there is one catch.

He has no desire to be the team's backup plan.

It's starter or bust for the Calgary Flames netminder.

"Probably not going to go in that case," a pensive Kiprusoff said. "If I'm not going to start, for sure I think I'm going to take that time off and rest."

Worrying about rubbing people the wrong way with his words isn't Kiprusoff's style.

Neither is stressing about how his country's hockey minds perceive his actions. When he was dealing with a sore hip in 2006, he chose not to go to Torino. The backlash built over time and left things a little awkward, with some questioning whether Kiprusoff was really hurt.

"I was hurt, and I needed that time off. I guess it was some misunderstanding," said Kiprusoff, admitting there was a weird vibe for a time because of all the media attention around it.

"It blows up," he said, adding he didn't feel a need to clear the air with his countrymen. "I didn't react to it. It's not my business."

His business is stopping pucks. He's been doing plenty of that with the Flames this season and is often showing the Vezina form he displayed to win that trophy in the '06 NHL season. For that reason, fellow Finn Teemu Selanne is betting Kiprusoff will be the guy to lean on in Vancouver.

"We have a healthy competition for that spot. We have five or six guys who could do the job," Selanne said. "Obviously, I think Kiprusoff is No. 1 with his experience."

Team Finland staff members Jari Kurri and head coach Jukka Jalonen have been to Calgary to scout Kiprusoff as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Kiprusoff's response was positive. You might even detect a little excitement if the cool-as-ice goalie wasn't so good at keeping his emotions in check.

"We've been talking. I told them I'm ready to go," Kiprusoff said with a smile. "There's still many games to go, but if I'm healthy and feel it's going to be alright -- I'm not too tired ... If they pick me."

Competition is there, with Minnesota Wild netminder Nicklas Backstrom considered Kiprusoff's biggest rival for the top role.

Other candidates include Antero Niittymaki, Vesa Toskala, Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask. Selanne agrees with Kiprusoff's expectation there will be an unquestioned starter named.

"I think you have to have one No. 1 guy," Selanne said. "I don't think the goalie should think about too much things once the tournament starts."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

THREE STARS

AS CHOSEN BY STEVE MACFARLANE

COREY PERRY

Easily the best player on the ice. Extended his point streak to 15 games.

CURTIS GLENCROSS

Sniped his fifth goal of the season.

TEEMU SELANNE

Scored a huge goal in the shootout after a decent regulation effort to lock up the win for the Ducks.


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