Flames' Irving in swing of things

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 PM ET

There’s no truth to the rumour Leland Irving asked his wife, Ashley, to work at a golf course this summer so he could improve his game.

It was just a glorious benefit.

Irving spent the off-season in Abbotsford and managed to get his handicap “down to a five or six.”

“She got a job to keep her busy through the summer. She only had a couple of courses she was doing, so it was nice to make some money. It’s something she’d done before, in our hometown, and she likes doing it,” Irving said. “It just happened the course was within a minute of our house.”

One look at the Calgary Flames 2006 first-round draft choice, and it’s obvious the gym wasn’t far away, either.

Irving is admittedly nine pounds heavier than he was a year ago, but the netminder is in outstanding shape.

It’s obvious the 22-year-old is motivated to make a statement this coming season.

“This is a big year for me. There’s a lot more I want to accomplish and I have a lot to prove. I know what I’m capable of, but I’ve got to come out here and show it on a consistent basis,” Irving said.

“I’m coming in with a positive attitude with whatever situation is dealt.”

Miikka Kiprusoff’s most likely backup this season will be newcomer Henrik Karlsson, who inked a one-year, one-way US$500,000 deal.

Irving knows he’s likely ticketed back to the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, but he isn’t going to go without a fight.

He does know he must make a statement at that level to truly earn a NHL role.

After all, last season he lost the starting job with the Heat, had a stint with the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings to regain his game before being called up, and then was back-up during Abbotsford’s playoff push and drive.

“I don’t think I’ve proven enough yet to earn that spot behind Kipper,” Irving said. “So, first and foremost, that’s my goal, be one of the top goaltenders in the American league.

“But it doesn’t hurt to try (to make the Flames). I’ve going to give it all I got in camp and make them make a decision. We’ll see how things go.”

Certainly, they have to be better than last season.

Irving established himself as the main man for the Heat early in the season, but lost his form around Christmas and was sent to Victoria.

He returned, but lost the starter’s job to David Shantz and served as the backup the rest of the way.

Irving doesn’t want to delve in the past, but heard the whispers he had to show more fire in his game.

“I’ve always had that competitive side, but the laid-back, easy-going side of me comes out, and that’s what everybody else sees,” he said. “For me, I have to become more consistent. There were times last year I got in a zone and was able to get into a good rhythm and playing often, and that makes the game easier. You get a really good feel for the puck and are in control of your body ...

“I caught myself last year just trying to do too much. I’d get caught doing something, being too aggressive and getting caught out of position or letting out a big rebound. When things start going wrong, you have to take a step back and get to your fundamentals, stick with what got you to this position, and go from there.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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