Flames backup back up from AHL rehab

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:20 AM ET

CALGARY - Life doesnít actually come with a restart button, but Henrik Karlsson is sure hoping to find one for this season.

Itís his best chance of making it better, because the Calgary Flames backup goaltender hasnít performed up to expectations in his second NHL campaign.

For starters, Karlsson had disappointing results of his first five starts ó zero wins, four losses in regulation time and one defeat in extra time.

As well, there was the knee injury suffered Dec. 4 against the Vancouver Canucks, which sidelined up until a couple of weeks ago, when he returned to action for a conditioning stint with the AHLís Abbotsford Heat, the Flames minor-league affiliate.

Now, with his knee feeling perfect and four games under his belt with the Heat, heís raring to go in the Stampede City, where the Flames take on the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960).

ďThatís how Iím trying to take this, a fresh start,Ē said the 28-year-old native of Tumba, Sweden. ďItís always tough as a backup when you donít get those wins, but I also have to remind myself I did some good things and Iím a better goalie this year than I was last year.

ďSo Iíve got to keep working hard, take the stuff that was OK ó and I did pretty good in those games (with the Heat) ó and work on the stuff that wasnít that good.

ďComing back now means a fresh start, and when I get the chance to play, Iím going to be ready, and Iím going to do my best to help the team win.Ē

Karlsson, in the first season of a two-year, US$1.725 million one-way pact, collected a 2-2 record in his four games with the Heat along with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

He surrendered four goals in his first start and allowed only five in the final three outings, winning the last two.

ďThe first game, I felt OK, but I was a little bit deep in the net,Ē said the 6-foot-6 Karlsson of his play in the Heatís 4-0 shutout loss to the Oklahoma City Barons at the Saddledome Feb. 9. ďBut Iím really happy how the last three games went. The team won the last two, also. So that was great for me to get the rhythm back, get a chance to play some games Ö

ďComing back here with some games feels good.Ē

Although Karlsson has another year on his contract, the next couple of months are of huge importance to his NHL future.

The Flames have 17 games scheduled during March, with three sets of games on consecutive nights. Star goalie Miikka Kiprusoff wonít be able to play them all, so the opportunities will be there for starts.

Considering that 2006 first-round draft choice Leland Irving has shown he deserves an opportunity to battle for the No. 2 netminder job with the Flames next season with his performances while filling in for Karlsson, itís up to Karlsson to prove he is, indeed, NHL material.

The best way he can be counted on is to show it.

ďI feel good, and I should be able to do a good job to help this team win,Ē Karlsson said. ďTheyíre playing really well at the moment. Kipper has been outstanding, but the teamís been playing really good in front of the goalies.

ďItíll be nice to get the chance to play.Ē

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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