Flames stickin' with Kipper

Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames eyes a puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during NHL...

Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames eyes a puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Friday, March 4, 2011. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI AGENCY)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

By the time his current string of starts comes to an end, he’ll have played more than a quarter of a season.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has suited up for 19 straight games for the Calgary Flames. And No. 20 is coming Sunday.

Head coach Brent Sutter hasn’t even resorted to the old secrecy when naming a starter these days.

He’s serving up Kiprusoff, followed by more Kiprusoff, with some Kiprusoff on the side.

“Nothing’s going to change. We’re in a mode of playoff hockey, obviously,” Sutter said Saturday after practice at the Saddledome. “We’re riding our No.-1 guy.”

They hope that ride helps land them in the playoffs.

Kiprusoff is not going to start every game until then, but there’s no telling when he’s going to sit out.

“I bet I’m gonna get some breaks, but we don’t know yet when,” Kiprusoff said, noting backup Henrik Karlsson is ready to go when the call comes.

There has been plenty of rest, though, for the 34-year-old Finn.

Sutter has handed out a lot of recovery days over the last month or so, and the star netminder takes full advantage.

“Try to not think about hockey too much,” he said.

“But, of course, I have to do my stretch. It’s what I’ve been doing many, many years. Even if it’s a day off, pretty much everyone does something to be ready for the next day.

“It’s pretty long, actually. A little warmup. Probably an hour, hour and a half. It’s pretty easy at home. I watch TV and do it at the same time.”

Sometimes, he has company from five-year-old son Aaro.

“Usually, it’s Treehouse. My son is watching at the same time,” Kiprusoff said. “Whatever is on there.

“Sometimes, it’s painful, but the kid likes it.”

You have to like what you’ve seen from Kiprusoff lately.

He went through a couple of weeks of adversity in January, but has bounced back the way he recovers while chasing pucks across his crease.

“We needed to have him at his best. Him and I, we had a good conversation,” Sutter said. “He had never been through that before. It was the first time.

“It was important for him to clear his mind, start feeling good about himself. All the extra work in practice and stuff was good, but it really wasn’t what was the most important thing.

“To me, it was mentally just getting him sharp again. I wanted him to have fun again. I wanted him to start enjoying the game and being the way he is in practices, be loose, have that competition with his teammates during practice where they laugh and joke, or not wanting to get scored on and stuff in practice — just get back to himself.

“We had a real good talk and then that day in practice he was different.”

By different, he means back to his old self.

Kiprusoff has gone 13-2-3 since a 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild Jan. 19, with three of his five shutouts on the season coming in the last seven outings.

“I think it was just him being reassured that, hey, we do think the world of him and we know he’s a very, very important part of this team. To be quite honest, he’s been a catalyst for us,” Sutter said.

“He went through a little tough time, which all players do. That won’t be the first time that happens with Kipper. Now he knows how to handle it.

“I think that’s the important thing he learned from it and he’s been playing like it.”


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