At present, we think that Karri Ramo is just slightly ahead of Reto and that’s the reason that Karri is going to get the first opportunity to carry the ball. - Jay Feaster
CALGARY, AB -- For eight straight seasons, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has been between the pipes for the season opener.
Karri Ramo is hoping to start a similar streak.
Ramo has inherited the cage from a retired Kiprusoff, outdueling fellow goalies Reto Berra and Joey MacDonald for the right to tend twine as starter for the Calgary Flames when the club opens the 2013-14 season on Thursday in Washington against the Capitals.
“At present, we think that Karri Ramo is just slightly ahead of Reto and that’s the reason that Karri is going to get the first opportunity to carry the ball,” general manager Jay Feaster said.
“As much as anything -- and I told this to Reto when we met with him -- I think just the fact that [Ramo]’s played in the National Hockey League before. I really do believe it’s razor-thin.
“We talked with Clint Malarchuk and obviously Clint is the goalie coach for a reason. Clint is just very, very bullish on Reto but right now, based on the pre-season and based on where we see things today and who we believe gives us the best opportunity to win a hockey game on Thursday, right now Karri gets to carry the ball.”
Ramo was 2-0-0 with a 2.84 goals against average and .897 save percentage in three pre-season starts with the Flames. Berra, meanwhile, was 1-1-1 in two starts with a 3.00 goals against and .892 save percentage.
Berra was assigned to the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, leaving a duo of Ramo and MacDonald to travel to Washington on October 3rd.
“We’re very, very pleased with the camp Reto had,” Feaster said. “We’re confident he’s going to be back in Calgary at some point this season. He’s going to help our hockey team win games.”
Despite no North American experience on the Swiss goalie’s resume, the Flames GM toyed with the idea of going with a Ramo-Berra tandem to start the season.
Instead, Feaster felt it was best to get the 26-year-old netminder more action between the pipes in Abbotsford.
“Under different circumstances, we might well have kept Reto in a 1A or back-up capacity,” Feaster began, “However because Reto has never played in North America before and because the fact Joey MacDonald must clear waivers in order to be assigned, we told Reto we wanted him to go into Abbotsford and experience the North American game, experience the travel he’s going to have as a pro playing in North America, playing in the National Hockey League and work on some specific areas of his game that our goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk discussed with him.
“We told Reto when we met with him that we believe he has outstanding talent and we’re convinced he’ll be a No. 1 everyday goaltender in the National Hockey League in short order.”
That opportunity could come soon if Ramo falters as the Flames' starter.
“The idea that we give Karri the opportunity to carry the ball, it is a results-oriented business to the extend that we aren’t getting the results we need, there’s nothing that stops us from recalling Reto and giving Reto an opportunity to carry the ball,” Feaster said.
For now, Berra will start with the Heat, leaving MacDonald as Ramo’s back-up.
The 33-year-old was the only goaltender with recent NHL experience heading into camp and played 21 games for the Flames last season, posting an 8-9-1 record with a 2.87 goals against average and .902 save percentage.
Berra, Joni Ortio and first-year pro Laurent Brossoit have yet to make their NHL debuts while Ramo last saw NHL action in 2008-09 as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
MacDonald, a veteran of 122 career NHL games, is also the only goalie in the Flames’ system required to clear waivers.
“We don’t believe at this time Joey MacDonald would clear waivers and for that purpose we didn’t want to expose him to waivers,” Feaster said.