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Kipper ready to keep busy

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

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CALGARY, ABMiikka Kiprusoff has yet to appear in under 70 games in a full season with the Calgary Flames.

He’ll have difficulty reaching that plateau this season.

With a condensed 48-game schedule coming out of the lockout, Kiprusoff will find himself with his lightest workload since joining the Flames in 2003-04.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t be busy.

“I joked with some folks earlier when we knew we were going to start again that unless we play 28 games to win the Stanley Cup, Kipper probably wont play in 70 or more this year,” general manager Jay Feaster said at the onset of training camp. “That doesn’t mean he won’t play in 48.”

Kiprusoff, who has played in an average of 73.4 regular season games since 2005-06, will be tasked with navigating the Flames through a shortened season that will feature nine back-to-back games, 11 road trips and 48 games in 97 days.

The Finnish netminder isn’t sure how the schedule will impact his workload this season.

“Whatever’s best for the team,” he said.

“I have no idea. We’ll see. I’m ready. I’m ready for the first one.”

Leland Irving, who won the opportunity to backup Kiprusoff with his strong play in training camp, isn’t sure what to expect for a workload either.

“There’s rumours he’ll play 48 and I know he’s capable of it, so I’m going to be ready every night, take that approach,” Irving said. “Every practice has to be like a game for me. That’s the only way you can approach this situation.”

The goaltending plan will fall on the shoulders of head coach Bob Hartley. Hartley admitted he had a map in place for the Finnish netminder, but wouldn’t divulge details on what he expects Kiprusoff’s load to be.

“We know what Kipper means to this organization,” said Harltey. “He’s going to see lots of action but it’s a shortened season for everyone. It’s something new, so not only managing Kipper but managing the rest of the guys, days off, how many good practice days are we going to be going to get a month, that’s all something we already have a plan.”

And if Hartley has a plan, one can bet he’ll stick to it.

“We want to see how it starts and after this, plans are always made to be adjusted or changed but I’m not a guy that many times I will change or adjust,” Hartley said. “I take the time to make good plans and obviously if they work, I like to stick with them.”

The last time Hartley had the opportunity to work with an elite goalie was with the Colorado Avalanche. During his tenure, the Flames bench boss had the luxury of having hall-of-famer Patrick Roy between the pipes. Under Hartley, Roy never started more than 63 games.

The two situations aren’t comparable, according to Hartley.

“Patrick had hip problems at this time,” Hartley said. “Today we can say, it was almost making sure that we didn’t get to a point where Patrick would be overused. At the same time, it was from common agreement that Patrick felt real good with this and we could, the medical staff could work around him and he would be at 100 per cent.”

Though he’s entering the season healthy, the same situation will play itself out with Kiprusoff keeping close contact with both Hartley and the medical staff.

“It’s going to be the same thing with Kipper,” Hartley said. “We will ask Kipper how he feels and everything and if Kipper gives us the green light, Kipper is going to play lots of games.”

In other words, the Finnish goaltender can expect to – at least in great part – dictate his work schedule this year.

“We have a plan and we will do everything in the best interest in Kipper and the Calgary Flames but the guy is a thoroughbred,” Hartley said. “I know what thoroughbreds like to do. They like to run. They don’t like to sit in the stable.”

But the season is a marathon, and the veteran goaltender knows it’s one step at a time.

“I might play a lot but like I say, I don’t want to think about too much ahead,” he said. “My mind is in the first game.”

One of many starts the winningest goaltender in franchise history can expect to add to his workload in 2013.

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