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Irving sets high goals for upcoming season

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
Goalie Leland Irving might be a little weary after participating the eight-game Canada-Russia Super Series. He could be forgiven for waking up Tuesday morning in yet another hotel ready to pack his bags and move on after travelling for the last two weeks. But, now that he is in Calgary he has one focus -- making the Flames hockey club.

"Obviously I want to come in and turn some heads," said Irving, who played half the Red and White game Tuesday in the Team Red net. "There is an open spot behind Kipper (Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff). Some might have me out of the picture already but as far as I am concerned that spot is open to anyone and I'm going to do the best I can to earn it."

Brent Krahn and Curtis McElhinney, both of whom played for the Flames top affiliate in the American Hockey League last season, are generally considered the front-runners for the Flames back-up job this season. And, because Irving has more junior eligibility in the Western Hockey League, where he plays for Everett, few have given Irving a nod to make the club this season. Just don't tell that to Irving, the Flames first round pick in 2006 in Vancouver.

Having arrived in Calgary late Sunday evening after backstopping Canada to a 6-1 win in Game 8 of the Super Series, Irving took Monday off to rest but jumped into the prospect training camp Tuesday, allowing one goal in a little more than half a game while making some splendid saves for Team Red.

"He's probably a little tired. But he looked sharp," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan.

"I think I am in game shape," said Irving, who had a 1.66 goals against average and .929 save percentage uin Everett last season, "The body is a little worn down. But staying in the same hotel for the next week or so might be nice."

Irving saw action in three of the eight games in the Super Series as three goalies shared duties. He won 4-2 in Omsk, 4-1 in Saskatoon and collected the 6-1 win in Vancouver. In all he played 180 minutes, allowing just four goals for a 1.33 goals against average and a .955 save percentage.

"I was very fortunate to be a part of this and experience it, especially with the group of guys that we had. It was a lot of fun and something I won't forget."

Just how did it compare to being in the pressure-cooker known as the World Junior Championships, at which Irving wore the Maple Leaf last year?

"It was more relaxed than the World Juniors. We had eight games against the Russians. We took the series game by game. The World Juniors is a game by game tournament but you have to keep winning to keep playing."

The Canadians finished the Super Series without a loss. The only blemish was a 4-4 tie in Red Deer, a game in which Irving did not dress. "We were playing for the logo on our chest once we had the series wrapped up. Coming back to Canada we wanted to put on a show for our fans," explained Irving.

The experience is going to stick in Irving's mind for a long time -- even the places in Russia that weren't so hot.

"It was a lot of fun and something I won't forget," said Irving. "Russia is very interesting. It's an experience. It really makes you appreciate Canada. Moscow isn't too bad but other parts aren't so modern. You appreciate the people in Canada and how friendly they are and our manner in general."

While the plans are to compete and win the backup job, Irving has some options -- returning to Everett and playing once again for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.

"We have a great team in Everett. I'd go there and work hard. We were disappointed that we didn't make it to the Memorial Cup but I think that is a realistic goal," said Irving.

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