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Going with Kiprusoff

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

Miikka is the man.

The Calgary Flames will ride their No. 1 goalie, Miikka Kiprusoff, for the rest of the season. And why not?

Kiprusoff had a minor blip in his game for about a week in December but he, as much as anybody, has played a big role in the team catapulting itslef out of the basement and into playoff contention in the Western Conference.

Is there a concern about Kiprusoff getting burned out? Perhaps. But it will, essentially, be up to the goalie to decide whether is he is tiring or not.

The Flames have 20 games remaining on the schedule, including tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

If Kiprusoff plays in all 20, he will finish the season with 73 games played. That's not out of line for Kiprusoff's workload since arriving in Calgary. The only season he played fewer than 73 games was 2003-04 when he arrived in Calgary in November and played 38 games. Since then, in order, he has played 74, 74, 76, 76 and 73 games.

As he starts Friday against his former team, it will be his 15th consecutive start.

Here's the deal. Head coach Brent Sutter and Kiprusoff talk every day about fatigue.

"It's a game-to-game basis between Miikka and I to see if he plays or not," said Sutter.

In other words, if Kiprusoff says he's ready, he will play.

"He's our No. 1 goalie. When you are in the situation that our team is in, you go with your No. 1 goalie," added Sutter. "He's playing rock solid. He went through a rough and he has responded very well. It's what we need. We're going to take it on a game to game basis and see how he feels. We don't want a situation to develope where he is playing if he happens to get tired."

The Flames have three sets of back-to-back games remaining in the season. One comes quickly as the Flames play in St. Louis on Tuesday and Chicago on Wednesday. On March 9-10 they play in Dallas and then Phoenix. And on March 20-21 they face Anaheim and Los Angeles in back-to-back games.

If there is a chance of tiring, it may be in those situations. That's when Kiprusoff will have to be honest with himself and with the coaches.

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