SUN Hockey Pool

Toskala poised to give Kiprusoff breather

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:23 PM ET

CALGARY — Maybe it was the pair of late goals against the New Jersey Devils that tarnished a potential romp.

Maybe it’s just the idea that no goalie can play 75 games and start for his country at the Olympics and still be fresh for the playoffs.

Either way, most would agree Miikka Kiprusoff needs some rest.

And soon.

It could come as early as Sunday afternoon with his Calgary Flames visiting St. Paul for a matinee against the Minnesota Wild.

Head coach Brent Sutter won’t divulge whether or not it will be his starter or newly acquired backup Vesa Toskala who will tend the twine in the Twin Cities, but the bench boss says the other Finn will get his shot, and the fact he just joined the team at the trade deadline doesn’t mean he’s not ready to go at any time.

“I’m not worried about that at all. I think he’s more than capable of handling any situation that’s thrown at him,” Sutter said of Toskala.

“He’s an experienced goalie in the National Hockey League. He’s been a starter. I’m not worried about that at all. He’ll be able to handle whatever’s thrown at him.”

Making it known to the Toronto Maple Leafs he wasn’t interested in being a backup, Toskala still wants to play on a regular basis.

Saddled with a less than impressive 7-12-3 record, an .874 save percentage and 3.66 goals-against average, the 32-year-old has a lot to prove if he wants to be considered a potential starter again when he becomes an free agent July 1.

He won’t make waves with the Flames and is good friends with Kiprusoff — the two played against each other growing up in Finland and were teammates in the minors and with the San Jose Sharks early in their NHL careers — but looks forward to showing he can still win games.

“I’ve been used to playing. It’s been an unusual season,” Toskala said after a practice at Father David Bauer Arena Saturday before heading to the airport.

“I always try to find the positive signs.”

Such as the way he feels after season-ending surgery last year, and nagging knee and groin injuries that limited him to 26 appearances with the Leafs before he was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks Jan. 31 in exchange for J-S Giguere.

“I guess it’s been good for my body. I’ve been healing. My body feels better than the last five years. I’m excited for that,” he said. “Whenever I play,

I should be ready, because everything feels good.

“When the opportunity comes, I’ll just try to enjoy it and have a good time.”

A good time is great.

Winning is better.

“He’s got to make the most of it. When he gets an opportunity to play, we need Vesa to play well for us,” Sutter said.

“He’s more than capable to do so. Sure he wants to play. Absolutely. He’ll get his chance.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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