'Tender eager to atone

RANDY SPORTAK , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

NEWARK — Before the Calgary Flames embarked on their current five-game road trip, head coach Brent Sutter said goaltender Henrik Karlsson would start one of the first three games.

Two tilts are in the books, and the backup goalie spent both of them on the end of the bench.

Plans could change, but Sutter’s assertion on the weekend would mean Karlsson will spell off Miikka Kiprusoff when the Flames face the New Jersey Devils Wednesday.

“I don’t know if they’ve made a final decision yet,” Karlsson said after the Flames lost 2-1 to the New York Rangers. “It was really a worrying experience after that (Oct. 28) game (I played). Hopefully,

I get a chance to play soon and I can give the team something after that bad performance.”

Karlsson played two of the first 20 games of the season for the Flames.

He posted a victory in his NHL debut, a 6-2 win Oct. 22 at the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he struggled in a 6-5 loss Oct. 28 to the Colorado Avalanche and hasn’t played since.

“I have to leave it behind me. I know I can play. I think I proved it in camp,” Karlsson said. “Obviously, it’s tough not to play much, and when you play, you want to play good and want to win. It was a bad performance, but that happens and is tough for a goalie that doesn’t play much. But I’m ready to go here and want to show I’m a good goalie.

“You want to play, and I do my best in practice to push for as many starts as possible. It’s tough that we’re struggling, but I try to be positive and work hard in practices.”

Finding a back-up goalie capable of winning a majority of his starting assignments has been an arduous task for the Flames since Kiprusoff’s arrival.

Karlsson’s 4.33 goals-against average and his .847 save percentage won’t cut it, especially if the Flames plan to give Kiprusoff enough rest.

Still, the Flames insist they have faith the affable first-year NHLer will do the job.

“He’s a very good goalie. When he’s in net, we feel confident,” captain Jarome Iginla said of Karlsson. “Last game was not one he’d like, but we all have our games to find. We know he has to play, and he’s a good goalie.”

On the surface, facing a Devils team with just six victories in 21 games and sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference would seem an easy assignment. But this game is as much of a must-win for the Flames (8-11-1) as there can be in late November.

Plus, the Devils are coming off a 5-0 pasting of the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. It’s no freebie for the Flames.

Therefore, it would be a huge boost if Karlsson backstopped his team to victory.

“That would be good for the team — and me also,” he said.

Not to mention it would mean another Karlsson celebration, which is entertaining.

“We’ll see a celebration if we win next game,” Karlsson said.

“I promise you that.”

The Flames need it for many reasons.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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