April 27, 2004
Work Cujo like a dog
By RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun


 For two games, he's watched the carnage from ice level.

 At the other end was his union brother, being blitzed by wave after wave of attackers. He watched as Miikka Kiprusoff withstood first-period attacks in which he faced 13 shots one game and 15 more the next.

 Watch was pretty much all Curtis Joseph could do.

 That's all he had to do.

 Not that the Red Wings goaltender is complaining but it's been a rather lonely existence for him in the first two games. Especially during those one-sided first-periods.

 It's a far cry from Joseph's days in Edmonton or Toronto, where he'd be under siege from the opening faceoff.

 Against the Flames the last two games, he's faced a grand total of five first-period shots.

 "You've got to play the game that's presented to you, whether that's 15 shots in the first period or two shots or three shots," said Joseph.

 "Whatever's presented you, you've got to be like a chameleon and you've got to adjust."

 Joseph, who turns 37 Thursday, expects more work tonight when he faces the Flames on Saddledome ice. He knows there'll be 19,000 maniacs doing what they can to energize their squad.

 And he's well aware Flames captain Jarome Iginla sent a message to his teammates about fighting back by dropping the gloves late last game.

 Joseph thinks he'll see more than a couple of biscuits between the national anthems and the first intermission.

 "You prepare yourself for any situation, not a lot of shots or a lot of shots," he said.

 "Their building gives them a lot of energy and you prepare yourself either way."

 Actually, the whole playoff run has been fairly easy for the Wings goaltender.

 Relegated to backup duty for the first four games of the Nashville series, Joseph finally hit the ice for the third period of a 3-0 loss that was decided before he reached the crease.

 In the last two games of the Nashville series, he faced a grand total of 13 first-period shots. He's faced no more than 20 shots in any of his four full games.

 Heading into tonight's encounter, he's feeling fresh, revitalized and, perhaps for the first time all season, appreciated.

 First, there was the disappointment of how last season ended, a first-round defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Joseph took the brunt of the fans' wrath for not duplicating Dominik Hasek's Stanley Cup-winning performance from the previous spring.

 Then came the soap opera that surrounded Hasek's return from a one-year retirement, with dressing-room tension well documented before Hasek shut down his season due to a groin injury that required surgery.

 Ankle surgery delayed Joseph's season and led to a couple of stints on the injured list and couple of trips to the minors.

 There were days nobody would have believed the Wings would be relying on Joseph for the Cup run, although he won't admit that crossed his mind.

 "You try not to wonder too far ahead," said Joseph of how he handled it all.

 "I really took it day by day.

 "It's part of your job, mental toughness. It's just part of your job.

 "I think every athlete has frustrating days and I had a few frustrating days but it's an exciting time of the year and playoffs are great.

 "I'm happy to be in this position."


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