“Leland is playing great. We’re going to keep riding Leland. He’s obviously playing very well for us and he’s building confidence.” - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- Leland Irving didn't flinch when the Calgary Flames plucked goaltender Joey MacDonald off the waiver wire.
After all, the 24-year-old netminder knows both what MacDonald can bring to the team and what's on the line with franchise face Miikka Kiprusoff sidelined.
“I realize Joey’s got a lot of experiences,” said Irving, who has just 11 career NHL games to his credit. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. He’s here to help the team no matter what the situation is. We’re just trying to win and we’re looking to make the playoffs.”
For the time being, though, the crease remains in Irving’s care. After a vote of confidence from both coach Bob Hartley and general manager Jay Feaster, the former first round pick will have ample opportunity to prove he can thrive, not just survive – as an NHL goaltender.
It’s that break that has Irving motivated.
“It’s exciting,” Irving said. “You can’t ask for a better opportunity. I’m going to learn a lot in this next couple weeks. I’m lucky enough to have Clint Malarchuk along my side and he’s going to help me through it as well as Joey. We’re all partners in this together. We’ve got to be the backbone of this team and give these guys a chance to win every night.”
It’s the same mantra MacDonald rolled out after his first session wearing a Flames jersey.
Going from packing his backs for Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids to getting the call to come to Calgary at 12:30 to leaving Detroit at 3 o’clock to finding landing late Monday night, MacDonald just has one goal in mind for his new club.
“Once I get the opportunity, give the team a chance to win,” he said.
MacDonald, who posted an 8-5-1 record with a 2.16 goals against average and .912 save percentage last season with the Red Wings, might have to wait for that opportunity.
Coming off a back injury of his own and yet to see any action this season, the Flames will take a closer look at MacDonald in practice before giving him an opportunity to start according to coach Bob Hartley.
“Right now we’re evaluating his conditioning and his game and obviously he just came in this morning so I didn’t have real time to sit down with him and look at his expectations,” he said.
And with a goaltender already playing well in Irving, there’s no panic to push MacDonald into a situation he isn’t ready for.
“Leland is playing great,” he said. “We’re going to keep riding Leland. He’s obviously playing very well for us and he’s building confidence.”
At the end of the day, Irving knows there’s no confusion about what he has to do to stay in the crease.
“Obviously we’ve got to win some games,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s a results-driven business and do everything I can to prepare myself to give these guys a chance to win.”