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Working out the kinks

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- For goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk, the chance to sign on with the Calgary Flames held a lot of appealing factors.

The prospect of returning to the city he once called home. The opportunity to work with what he considers to be one of the strongest sets of coaching staff in the league. The chance to be part of an organization that he feels is on the upswing.

But most of all, working with one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Miikka Kiprusoff.

"I must say, he's always been one of my favourites. I'm tickled and thrilled to be able to work with Kipper because I've always been a big, big fan of his."

Malarchuk has close to a decade of experience when it comes to working with NHL netminders. He plans to use the same approach he's used with other established goaltenders when he begins to work with Kiprusoff later this summer.

"You have to be a guiding presence," he said. "Even the best in the game need guidance at times. It doesn't matter how old you are or how experienced you are, there's always things that happen within a game, in practice and throughout the season that need fine tuning."

A former NHL goaltender himself, Malarchuk understands the importance of having someone constantly watching the smallest details of a netminder's game.

"You're an extra set of eyes. Goalies don't always know, and players don't always know, when they're doing something ... you start to develop a little tick here and there and you need to nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem or a fault in your game."

Malarchuk's other goal is to be able to give Kiprusoff's caddy a larger share of the workload. Since being dealt to the Flames from the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 16, 2003, Kiprusoff has solidified himself as one of the busiest goalies in the NHL.

Over the past six seasons, the Finn has averaged 74 games a season with his lowest number of games coming this past year when he played 71. Malarchuk would like to see that number drop but to have that happen, he needs to feel comfortable with the backup's overall game.

"My job is to basically keep working with him and keep putting him in more and more game situations we hope to lessen the work load for Kipper and to develop him."

Last season, Henrik Karlsson took on the role of backup but is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1. While both sides have indicated they want to come to terms, a deal has yet to be reached. Through 17 games played, the man dubbed The Calgary Tower posted a 2.58 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

The other option for a backup goaltender comes in the form of Leland Irving. The Swan Hills native had a standout year in Abbotsford, posting a 2.30 GAA and a .913 save percentage through 61 games.

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