SUN Hockey Pool

All eyes on Flames' Kiprusoff

Calgary Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff makes a save against Edmonton Oilers' Jordan Eberle. (REUTERS/Dan...

Calgary Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff makes a save against Edmonton Oilers' Jordan Eberle. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:35 PM ET

Apparently not anxious to chat with the media, Miikka Kiprusoff told team officials he’d be busy stretching and then snuck out a side door after Tuesday’s skate at the Westside Recreation Centre.

The Calgary Flames can’t afford for their acrobatic netminder to make another hasty exit during Wednesday’s crucial showdown with the Anaheim Ducks at the Saddledome.

In the most recent meeting between the two teams, Kiprusoff was hooked after surrendering three goals on five shots in less than six minutes of action. He watched from the bench as the Flames battled back to claim a single point in a 5-4 overtime loss.

“It wasn’t a result of how (Kiprusoff) was playing,” insisted Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “You use it as a timeout and a different look for the guys. It was meant to wake us up a little bit, and it worked.”

Giordano is right, it wasn’t all Kipper’s fault.

Ryan Getzlaf was left alone in the high slot on the opening goal, and fans at the Saddledome are certainly aware of what the former Calgary Hitmen sniper can accomplish in that scenario.

Just over two minutes later, the Ducks cashed in on a powerplay opportunity, with Corey Perry poking a rebound under the sprawling puck-stopper during a goal-mouth scramble.

And Kiprusoff’s night came to an abrupt end after Francois Beauchemin threaded a blueline blast through rush-hour traffic to give the homeside a three-goal lead after just 5:49 at the Honda Center.

The Flames managed to dig out of that hole, scoring four unanswered goals before giving up a late equalizer to the ageless Teemu Selanne and watching Perry end it in overtime.

But if they’re going to dig out of their current hole in the Western Conference standings and claim a post-season invite, they’ll need Kiprusoff to be up to his old tricks.

As in, frustrating shooters. Making timely stops. Maybe even stealing games.

The Flames have already admitted they need to win all five of their remaining contests to stay in the playoff hunt, meaning their workhorse netminder is out of mulligans.

Before pucks dropped for Tuesday’s NHL action, Kiprusoff led all goalies in appearances, with 67, and trailed only Montreal Canadiens backstop Carey Price with 3,916:26 of total icetime. The 34-year-old Flames stalwart also ranks second in the league with 34 wins to his credit.

Despite checking his backside for splinters the last time the Flames faced off against the Ducks, there was never any doubt he’d be between the pipes for Wednesday’s must-win game.

“He has the odd night where’s he not quite himself, but there’s not too many of those,” said Flames defenceman Cory Sarich. “We just expect Kipper to be Kipper, which he usually is.

“In the odd game, it doesn’t quite go his way. He plays so many of them, that it’s bound to happen. If he was only play 40 or 50 games a year, then they get magnified. But he’s playing almost 70 games a season. That’s crazy. You’ve got to have a couple bad ones in there.”

Just not tonight.

Or for the remainder of this season, for that matter.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WesGilbertson


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