SUN Hockey Pool

Irving eager to do his part

Flames goaltender Leland Irving during a stoppage in play in a pre-season game against the Oilers...

Flames goaltender Leland Irving during a stoppage in play in a pre-season game against the Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Sep. 24, 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:23 PM ET

CALGARY - Leland Irving’s stint with the Calgary Flames likely will be much longer than he was expecting.

Thankfully, Joe Piskula’s fiance, Lauren, will be able to ensure he has enough of a wardrobe to survive.

Flames backup goalie Henrik Karlsson will be out of action for a couple of months due to a torn MCL in his knee, therefore Irving is staring at a noteworthy NHL stint.

But it was a hurried trip getting to Calgary, so he doesn’t have much for clothing.

“We just finished a week-long road trip with Abbotsford when I got the call. So I’ve got my suits, but not much for casual wear,” Irving said.

“Fortunately, Joe Piskula’s fiance is coming here and she’s nice enough to get some of my clothes from my wife, so I’ve got some coming.”

That’s one item off the agenda for Irving, but it’s of little importance in comparison to the others facing the 2006 first-round draft choice.

More pressing than having enough jeans and shirts is performing to expectations.

Sure, the Flames rely heavily on No.-1 goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, but this is a team one week into a stretch of 20 games in 38 days, and all but six on the road.

Irving’s chance between the pipes will come soon, likely next week when the team plays the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers on consecutive nights.

“I’m going to try and make the best of it,” said the 23-year-old netminder from Swan Hills, Alta. “After spending quite some time in the minors, you really appreciate your time up here. I think the time down there has helped me develop a lot. My game, mostly, but also as a person and a teammate.

“I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Head coach Brent Sutter has a plan in place for his goaltenders, and doesn’t intend to deviate by putting Irving in action sooner than he had Karlsson pegged to play or to delay his debut.

“It’s still based on our schedule,” Sutter said. “Leland’s come in to be our back-up, no different from Karl. Our schedule is still based on when we think is the right time for Kipper not to play. That hasn’t changed.”

After a breakthrough 2010-11 season in which he was the Abbotsford Heat team MVP, Irving has continued his strong play this season, putting together a 15-7-0 record with a 2.30 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and three shutouts.

However, he’s in a different role. Instead of being the top dog and playing almost every game, he’ll have to remain sharp through practice and learn how to bide his time for game action.

“I’m trying to get into a routine, get comfortable with my surroundings and get used to the guys, all that little stuff,” he said.

“But I’m preparing like I’m playing every night. Eventually, I imagine that’s going to happen if I’m here that long, so I’m going to prepare as best I can and be ready for that opportunity.”

And that will take?

“You can’t over-complicate the game,” he said. “At first, you’re almost in awe with all these guys and the skill they have, but at the end of the day, it’s the same game.

“It’s faster, so you still need that good quickness, but as long as I’m tracking the puck well and am patient, everything falls into place. I just have to stick with what got me here.”


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