SUN Hockey Pool

Karri Ramo likely Flames starter after win

Karri Ramo is likely the Calgary Flames' starter heading into the season.

Karri Ramo is likely the Calgary Flames' starter heading into the season.

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:43 AM ET

The No. 1 netminder job for the Calgary Flames wasn’t going to just be handed to Karri Ramo.

He had to earn it.

Mission accomplished.

Ramo, the former Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender, won’t likely replace the retired Miikka Kiprusoff in the hearts of Flames fans, but looks to be the man who’ll take over the starting goalkeeper duties when the regular season opens.

Ramo made 27 saves in Monday’s 4-1 pre-season victory over the New York Rangers at the Saddledome.

Not a bad Dome debut for the goalie.

“Home is home, you want to perform,” Ramo said. “It’s the first of many, hopefully now. Good thing it went well and you have to enjoy it now, but you have to come back to work tomorrow.”

The Flames conclude their exhibition schedule Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, and there are still plenty of decisions to be made before declaring a 23-man roster. Deciding the top netminder won’t take any agonizing.

After his second consecutive top-notch outing, it’s hard to imagine Ramo won’t be the man between the pipes when the 2013-14 campaign kicks off Oct. 3 in Washington against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.

“That’s not my job to think about that,” Ramo said. “It’s up to the coaches and management to think about that. I just have to make everything I can on the ice for them to choose me.”

Following a six-shot opening period during which he could have flipped through much of War and Peace, Ramo, who spent four seasons in the KHL following an inglorious start to his NHL career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, came up big when called upon often the rest of the way.

He made a couple of dandy stops in the first portion of the second period, first on Brandon Mashinter’s offering from the slot and then when Danny Kristo had a partial breakaway, and carried that momentum all the way to the final buzzer.

“Karri gave us a very big game. Solid. Came up with the big saves at the right time,” head coach Bob Hartley said. “I felt that we protected the front of the net fairly well, but the thing that I wanted to see from him is that he felt confident on every shot, and that’s exactly what we saw. This is great.”

The plan is to start Reto Berra on Wednesday.

The only blemish on Ramo’s night was Marc Staal’s second-period powerplay tally, coming amidst a scramble which couldn’t be faulted on the goalie.

“He’s been good,” Flames centre Matt Stajan said of Ramo. “We played well in the first and he didn’t see much action, and in the second we were very sloppy and he came up with some key, point-blank saves. Those are the saves that change momentum and keeps our team in it. We got the third one and took over the game again.

“Good on him. It’s his first game in this building and he stepped up. We need that from him. We need that from whoever’s in net.”

Stajan’s night was impressive, too, one goal and three points thanks to pinpoint passes which directly led to goals for Curtis Glencross and Dennis Wideman, his fourth of the pre-season.

Stajan has netted two goals and five points in four exhibition season outings.

“When you win, you get that good feeling in the dressing room, and that’s something we want,” Stajan said. “Obviously, it’s just pre-season and these games don’t count, but what would everybody be saying if we were losing these games going into the season? You want to go in on a high note and build off that.”

Lance Bouma rounded out the affair with an empty netter, which gives the fourth-line forward three goals in as many pre-season outings, no small feat after missing almost all of last season due to a knee injury.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca 

twitter.com/SUNRandySportak


Photos