CALGARY - Miikka Kiprusoff was enjoying his usual quiet summer filled with friends, family and fishing in Finland when the Flames finally tracked him down.
Not just for your usual pop-in visit, either. This guest came bearing gifts.
“Rich Hesketh found me this summer,” Kiprusoff said of the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
“One day, he showed up at my cabin door. I was surprised he found it. I guess nowadays there’s GPS — you can do everything with it.
“He did bring me some secret equipment I was trying after that. Pretty cool stuff.”
One member of the staff suggested the gift was a new set of pads for the 34-year-old netminder to break in.
Others around the Saddledome speculated maybe Hesketh brought a new piece of modern technology in the workout world to help get Kiprusoff prepared for the long season.
“Seriously, he’s pretty good at what he does,” Kiprusoff said. “He came checking out everything was alright. It’s always good to talk to him. He follows, always, what’s going on and if there’s something new I should try. It was cool.
“It was good to see him there.”
Fans can expect to see plenty of the starting goaltender — as usual — this season.
Exactly how much, though, no one is entirely sure.
Flames GM Jay Feaster guaranteed this summer that Kiprusoff wouldn’t play upwards of 70 games for a seventh straight season thanks in part to backup Henrik Karlsson earning the coaching staff’s confidence last year.
But Kiprusoff has heard that before, at the start of pretty much every year since establishing himself as a top NHL goalie.
“It’s been many years, same question,” Kiprusoff said with a grin .”I think the answer is, every year, the same. You can use last year’s.
“I’m happy to play every game they give me, and if Henrik is playing much more, I’m fine with that, too. I just do my job when I get my chance to do it. I’ve been feeling alright every year, even playing lots.”
He’s not opposed, though, to a lighter workload that would mean more quality practice time with new goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk.
“I usually don’t count (games),” Kiprusoff said. “But I don’t think it would be a bad thing if I play less, for sure. That would make it easier to have some good practices, too.
“Henrik is a really good goalie, and he’s able to play in this league.”
Kiprusoff is more than a good goalie. He’s an elite one, when at the top of his game.
Malarchuk has used Kiprusoff as a benchmark before while tutoring young goalies like Roberto Luongo when he was in Florida or Pascal Leclaire and Steve Mason in Columbus.
His new coach was impressed with Kiprusoff’s focus on the first day of on-ice training.
“He’s one of the guys I’ve always kind of used as an example with my young goaltenders because he does so much right,” said Malarchuk. “Today, I was so impressed, because he competes on every puck, he wants to stop every puck. Some guys don’t do that.”
Just how many times he does that in games remains to be seen. But if he does it as well as he has in the past, don’t count out another 70 or so.