Calgary's counting on Kipper

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:34 PM ET


 The Flames like to think they have countless reasons for optimism tonight but No. 34 is No. 1 on their list.

 Poll the players for keys to clipping the Canucks in Game 7 and most point toward unflappable Finnish puckstopper Miikka Kiprusoff to steal the tense series finale.

 "Miikka is the coolest individual I think I've ever met," declares defenceman Mike Commodore, looking cool himself yesterday dashing into the 'Dome sporting a hip hat to control his trademark wild red mop.

 "Nothing rattles him. You don't get much of a reaction out of him at any time, whether things are going great or not going so well.

 "I think Miikka's going to play the same way he's played for us all year and that's great."

 Acquired in November, Kiprusoff posted an NHL record 1.69 GAA in 2003-04 while stunning opponents with his calm demeanour as the Flames battled for their first playoff berth in eight seasons.

 After allowing five goals to slip past in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final, Kiprusoff recovered by surrendering just four through the next four games.

 The Canucks rifled five pucks past him while drilling Kiprusoff with 52 shots in Saturday's triple overtime loss but the Flames' confidence in the man they call 'Kipper' hasn't waned.

 "I think all year he's been there to stop it for us," offers winger Chris Clark. "He's been there to bounce back. Whether it's our fault, his fault, he's always been the backbone of our team.

 "He's going to be out there, playing strong for us (tonight)," explained Clark confidently.

 Kiprusoff kicked aside 20 shots in earning a Game 4 shutout, the sort of effort the Flames might need to finally stifle the productive Canucks.

 "Miikka's been a very good competitor for us," points out Flames assistant coach Jim Playfair.

 "Even on the nights he wasn't great, he's given us a chance on most nights to win."

 After surrendering five goals in Game 1, Kiprusoff allowed just one puck past him in a 2-1 win in Game 2, a pattern Kiprusoff repeated throughout the regular season.

 After allowing six goals against Colorado back in November, Kiprusoff held San Jose to just one goal his next start.

 In February, Montreal put four pucks past Kiprusoff three nights before New Jersey managed just one goal against him.

 Dallas filled the net with five goals in early March before the Flames netminder responded by allowing just one goal against Colorado.

 It's a phenomenon Playfair would like his goalie to revive tonight.

 "I talked to (goaltender coach) David Marcoux about this and if you check his record, he's been excellent after a game in which he's let in more than two goals," Playfair explains.

 "We expect that from Miikka and he expects that from himself and we're going to need that to give ourselves a chance to win Game 7."


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