Flames fans of Kipper

Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff stops an Oilers shot at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary,...

Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff stops an Oilers shot at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Feb. 21, 2012. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:46 AM ET

CALGARY - Best. Kipper. Ever.

That’s what the Calgary Flames are saying about their starting netminder, and that’s saying a lot given Miikka Kiprusoff’s incredible body of work.

But with a 10-3-3 record and a 1.65 GAA in his last 16 games, he has almost single-handedly resurrected the Flames season.

“The way he’s played this year is another level that I haven’t seen before,” said winger Alex Tanguay. “This is my fourth year with the Flames and this is the best I’ve seen him play. We’re crossing our fingers that he keeps playing the same way, if he does it gives us a chance to win every night.”

True enough. It wasn’t long ago that the Flames playoff hopes were dead and buried next to Edmonton’s, but seven weeks later they have fought themselves back into the mix, earning points in 14 of 17 games and climbing to eighth in the Western Conference.

All this with six players on injured reserve, including Curtis Glencross.

“It’s a good feeling, a confident feeling we have,” said Tim Jackman, adding the Flames believe, even if a lot of other people don’t, yet, that they will be more than one-round wonders in the playoffs.

“We’ve beaten some really good teams above us, so that gives us confidence. We feel we’re in every game, that we should win every game we play.”

And they’ve got Kipper.

“You need a top notch goalie in order to win the Stanley Cup and Miikka is certainly of that calibre,” said Tanguay.

NO SHOW JONES

Ryan Jones spent Tuesday evening in the press box, a healthy scratch for only the second time in his three years as an Oiler.

He’s not sure why, although he did go a stretch of 21 games without a goal and was on the ice when Toronto and Vancouver scored goals in the opening minute last week at Rexall.

“It’s hard for me to judge right now,” said Jones. “You’re a little biased in your own game. I struggled a little bit to score there... I don’t know when I get back in I’ll just have to work hard.”

Needless to say, being sat out against the Flames is hard to stomach.

“I’m fine, it’s part of the game,” he said when asked about his mental state. “Obviously I’m not happy being out of the line-up, nor should I be, I don’t think they expect me to be happy, but ultimately it’s not my decision. I have to force them to not be able to take me out of the line-up and apparently I didn’t do that.”

D IS FOR DECISIONS

When a team has eight defencemen on the roster, it pays to play well. If not, there’s always somebody there to take your spot. Tuesday in Calgary it was Corey Potter, back from a groin injury, bumping Cam Barker (minus 2 in his last game, minus 8 in his last five) from the line-up.

“It’s only been three games but it feels like a long time,” Potter said of his injury. “Having eight guys is definitely good for the competitive atmosphere. It’s healthy to have eight guys around here.” ... Ryan Nugent-Hopkins accompanied the Oilers to Calgary, but they didn’t even consider playing him. “There is no discussion on that right now,” said associate coach Ralph Krueger. “He is not 100 per cent and he will not play unless he’s 100 per cent.”

UP KEEPING

Nikolai Khabibulin’s groin injury - he’s expected to miss a week to 10 days - not only gives Devan Dubnyk the opportunity to start a few in a row, it gives Yann Danis a chance to enjoy a few cups of coffee in the NHL.

“I’m just happy to be here, it’s been quite a while, a couple of years, so it’s good to be back,” said Danis, who played 12 games with the New Jersey Devils in 2009-10. “I’m definitely going to enjoy every minute of it.”

Danis is having a great season in Oklahoma City, posting a 1.98 GAA to go with his 21-10-1 record.

“Things are going really well down there. We have a really good team, a good mix of veterans and young talent and the coaches are doing a great job down there. It’s been a lot of fun.”

So is this, though.

“I don’t know if I’m going to play or not, it would be fun to play, but it’s out of my hands. All I can do is work hard in practice and be ready.”

BREAKING THEIR BACKS

With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Flames believe this is the time to deliver kill shots to a few of the teams on their tail. Right now everyone but Edmonton and Columbus is still in the mix, but a few well-placed wins can change the way their GMs approach the deadline.

“You never know what teams are going to do,” said Alex Tanguay. “Maybe one of those teams that chasing us, if we go out and win all three of our games and they lose three in a row, next thing they know they’re 8-10 points back and they become a seller. We’d like to push away as many teams as possible.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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