January 4, 2012
Flames go with Irving to finish trip
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
BOSTON - Save that Man Friday nickname for Leland Irving.
It looks like the Calgary Flames goalkeeper will finally be minding the twine at the NHL level on a different night of the week.
Irving — whose first three games to kick off his NHL career have come on successive Fridays, shootout loss in Florida Dec. 16, win in Vancouver Dec. 23 and overtime loss in Ottawa Dec. 30 — will likely get the start when the Flames wrap up their road swing Thursday night in Boston (5 p.m., Sportsnet West).
At least, that’s the direction head coach Brent Sutter said he’s leaning towards, mainly because the Flames will stay over in Boston after the game and fly home Friday before playing host to the Minnesota Wild Saturday night.
Sutter wants to use No.-1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff in that outing.
“It’s a six-hour flight home and we’ve got those games at home. The first is a divisional game and we’ve got to make sure Kipper’s ready for that,” Sutter said. “We’ve got to make sure our No.-1 goalie is ready.
“That was our thought process going into this trip, going two-one, two-one (Kiprusoff playing two games and Irving playing one) depending on how he played in the first one, and he played extremely well (in Vancouver) and in Ottawa, so we’re leaning towards doing that.”
Irving has been very good in his three NHL contests, which all came on the second half of back-to-back nights.
The 2006 first-round draft choice stopped 39 shots in his debut. He blocked 29 in Vancouver to earn his first NHL victory and stopped 45 against the Senators.
“We’ve been encouraged with him,” Sutter said of the 23-year-old rookie. “We said it at the beginning of the year, our backup goaltender has to get us some points and wins. Unfortunately, things didn’t materialize as well as we’d liked with Karl (injured Henrik Karlsson), as far as getting that. He had moments when he played well and moments he wasn’t that good, and then he unfortunately he got hurt.
“But it’s funny how that works, somebody gets a chance and he’s shown, to date, he can play at this level. That’s a strong sign for us.”
As well as Irving has played, this will be a test as to whether he can take his game to another level.
The Bruins will be coming off a Wednesday night clash with the New Jersey Devils, but are looking every bit like the club which won the Stanley Cup last spring and could do it again this year.
And you know they’ll be fired up at the thought of facing a rookie goalie.
However, the Flames (18-18-5) should have plenty of motivation, too, having lost four straight and with this game being the last of a lengthy road swing and tough schedule.
“We’ve got one game to focus in on,” Sutter said. “You go in there with the right attitude and right mindset, ‘Let’s just go there and play well, make sure we give ourselves a chance.’
“We need one win and it gives us a .500 record on this trip. We need that mindset, need to stay positive and keep our chins up.”
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak