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Easy-going David Rittich calm, but excited for first-ever home-opener as an NHL starter

by TY PILSON @TyPilson /

When it comes to having ice water in your veins, one goaltender set the standard around these parts.

His name was Miikka Kiprusoff - you may have heard of him?

Kipper redefined calm, cool and collected. He never seemed to get rattled and was always on his game, never letting nerves get the best of him.

David Rittich - wearing No. 33 - is similar to No. 34 in a variety of ways.

He's got that same peaceful demeanor and his background is comparable, being a European goalie looking to solidify himself as an NHL starter at an older age.

But when it comes to his personality, that's where the two 'tenders differ.

Rittich is gregarious, outgoing, always wearing a smile, more than happy to talk on a game day, and quick with the jokes.

Take for example earlier in the pre-season in a game against the Jets at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sept. 24, when he bobbled a puck he tried to play that led to a Winnipeg scoring chance.

Thankfully they didn't capitalize.

When asked about that play after the game, he cracked a smile and chuckled and replied: "I already checked my pants after that play."

Tonight, he'll get a chance - along with the rest of his team - to record his first W of the new campaign when they host the Vancouver Canucks (8 p.m., TV: HNIC, Radio: Sportsnet960 THE FAN). He will start between the pipes, backed up by Cam Talbot.

Calgary dropped their season-opener Thursday night in Denver, falling 5-3 to the Avalanche, the last tally coming into an open net.

The Flames gave up six powerplays to a fast and skilled Avs side Thursday, leading to Rittich being extremely busy early on, especially in the first period where he stood tall, facing 14 shots to Calgary's three, but allowing just two goals - one while the opposition was man-up.

In total, he finished the night with an .871 save percentage, turning aside 27 of the 31 shots he faced.

The Flames settled into the game after the opening 20 minutes and finished with 30 shots of their own. They outshot the Avs 14-6 in the final frame.

"I mean, I wanted to get shots but not too many scoring chances against," he smiled following the team's morning skate on Saturday. "Playing Colorado, they have a good team and a good crowd. And they're playing the home-opener. But I was ready for it. We played well in the third and end of the second. We just have to move on and play like we played in the third."

A short memory and the ability to not dwell on the past is a key attribute for a goalie to find success in the NHL.

So is confidence.

"I played 45 games last year and I don't want to think about I'm nervous, or something like that," he said of the home-opener. "It's the same game - it's still hockey. I'm just looking forward to playing."

Like water off a duck's back, Rittich has already put Thursday behind him and is focused squarely on the team's West Coast rivals.

"If you look at one roster to another roster, every single team has good players, right," he said. "It comes down to how we're gonna play, how we're gonna prepare. We know they have a good team so it's just on us to come out and get the win."

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