'Tender memories

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:35 PM ET


 Warren Strelow is somewhat torn over the Flames-Sharks series.

 Sure, the San Jose goalie coach is rooting for the club that employs him but Strelow has plenty of feelings for the Flames side, too.

 "What I'd like to see is us win every game 1-0 in overtime. That would be a total win for the goalie coach," he said with a laugh.

 "It won't happen but it could."

 And he'd have played a big part in it.

 When the Sharks and Flames slug it out for Western Conference supremacy, two of Strelow's many prize pupils will be front and centre.

 Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov has been under his tutelage since coming to North America from Russia in 1997 and has developed into one of the NHL's best.

 Strelow spent nearly as much time working with Miikka Kiprusoff and he's proudly watched the goalie go from third on the depth chart in the Bay Area to a hero in Calgary. The fan favourite has set records while backstopping the unheralded Flames to the third round of the playoffs.

 "I'm really happy for him," Strelow said. "It might be the move of the year by Darryl Sutter. He used to come out and shoot with me in practice with the goalies. He knew his talent, the question was if Miikka had the opportunity and found himself.

 "I told (Sharks GM) Dougie Wilson the week of the trade, 'Hear it now, don't be surprised if this guy finds himself and becomes an all-star in the National Hockey League.' "

 Kiprusoff, who set a modern-day, regular-season goals-against-average record of 1.69, may have surprised many around the hockey world but Strelow believed in the unflappable Finn.

 "I saw the talent and always told him he'd be a No. 1 guy in the National Hockey League and could be an all-star in the league," he said. "I told him that more than once."

 Strelow, whose goaltending stable through the years has included Martin Brodeur, Sean Burke, Pete Peeters, Clint Malarchuk and Craig Billington, always knew about Kiprusoff's athletic talents.

 Kiprusoff's footspeed and lateral movement is amazing. His ability to read the play and anticipate is outstanding.

 What was up in the air was the goalie's mental skills.

 Time has proven he is up to snuff at that aspect of the game, too.

 "He's got a real steady personality," Strelow said. "When you get to know him, his dry humour is really funny and sometimes you don't know if he's kidding but he's so calm sometimes you could think he doesn't care.

 "A word we talk about is rebound. Rebound after a bad goal, rebound after a bad period, rebound after a bad game. Don't dwell on it -- (look) to the future. It's not easy to handle the good times and the bad with the same emotional stability but the good ones do it.

 "I see guys talking about how when Kiprusoff lets in five goals, the next time he's great. That's what it's all about."

 The only downfall to the Sharks and Flames meeting is Strelow won't be on hand to watch.

 Forced to stay home in Minnesota while he recuperates from a kidney transplant, Strelow won't be able to catch up to his old friends.

 The list extends past the netminders, too.

 "Every time we're not playing at the same time, I've been watching the Calgary games," he said. "Darryl and Rico (Flames assistant Rich Preston) have done a great job in Calgary. Darryl is such a good motivator. I'd sit in the meetings and before the games and there were times I'd say, 'Darryl, now I'm ready to play.' "


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