CALGARY - The Calgary Flames have reverted to the two-goalie tandem of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo after Joni Ortio's short, but successful stint with the NHL team.
The Flames remain in position to end a five-year playoff following a goaltending philosophy of "he who wins is the starter until he loses."
Head coach Bob Hartley gave Hiller the nod for Tuesday's home game against Buffalo, but it's a short trip to backup status in Calgary
Hiller's six goals against in a Jan. 9 loss to the Florida Panthers combined with a Ramo injury opened the door for Ortio. He arrived from the AHL's Adirondack Flames to hold Calgary in the playoff hunt on a five-game road trip prior to the all-star break.
The 23-year-old Finn showed poise, giving up a combined five goals in four wins over division rivals, including a shutout of Vancouver and overtime victories in Los Angeles and San Jose. But Ortio was then pulled in a 6-3 loss to Anaheim with Hiller giving up just one goal in the back half of the game.
Calgary entered the all-star break alone in the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference with a record of 25-19-3. Ramo's activation from the injured list hastened Ortio's return to the AHL.
But Ortio's performance prompts questions about what the Flames goaltending situation means heading towards the NHL's trade deadline March 2.
"We'll see. Every game has been a Game 7 for quite awhile so we're not going to change our approach," head coach Bob Hartley said. "Goaltending is such a big part of winning games. Whoever wants to run with the ball, we'll give it to them.
"Right now we have two goalies we're very comfortable (with). We appreciate what Joni did for us, but at the same time we felt Joni had to keep playing. Jonas and Karri will carry the load for us."
Calgary signed Hiller to a two-year contract worth $4.5 million annually last summer after his six seasons in Anaheim. The Swiss netminder won nine of his first 14 starts for Calgary and then lost 10 of his next 14.
"I was kind of longing for a chance to get back and definitely happy with the way I played the second half in Anaheim," Hiller said. "It's a good thing to build on, but I think I've got to be ready again every game we play.
"If we want to have a chance, I have to play at my best."
Hiller had a goals-against average of 2.47 and a save percentage of .911 at the all-star break.
Ramo's last start was Jan. 7 when he was injured in a collision with teammate Raphael Diaz during a game in Detroit. The Finn earned four straight starts earlier this season. Ramo's record was 8-5-1 with a GAA of 2.67 and a save percentage of .904 at the all-star break.
In contrast to NHL teams who want to protect their starting goaltender's ego, Calgary's motto of "always earned, never given" applies to Flames goalies.
Ramo says Hartley communicates his confidence in both goalies during bi-weekly meetings between the head coach and netminders.
"We're in a great situation battling for a playoff spot. Everything is still possible, so he just keeps telling (us) 'keep working hard. There's chances,'" Ramo said.
"It's been long time since I had a full game, so I'm excited to get back. I don't know when it's going to be."