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Flames' Kiprusoff to play for Finland -- if he starts

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY -- Miikka Kiprusoff is committed to Finland, as long as Finland is committed to him.

Kiprusoff, who begged off the 2006 Olympics complaining of a sore hip, says he'll play for his country during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver -- provided he's the Suomi starter.

"If I'm not going to start for sure, I think I'm going to take that time off and rest," The Calgary Flames star netminder told reporters in Anaheim the other day, adding that if he was to back up a countryman such as Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, Toronto's Vesa Toskala, Nashville's Pekka Rinne  or Boston's Tuukka Rask, "I'd probably not go in that case."

Four years ago, well in advance of Olympic rosters being set, Kiprusoff ruffled a few Finnish feathers by announcing that his hip would preclude him from Torino, but ended up starting 74 games for the Flames during the 2005-06 campaign.

"I was hurt and I needed that time off," the 33-year-old Vezina Trophy winner told reporters. "I guess there was some misunderstanding there. I told everybody that I needed time off with my hip. Then you know how it goes sometimes. One story, and it grows."

The most likely candidates to start between the pipes for Finland include Kiprusoff (2.57 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, 12-5-3 record), Backstrom (2.66 GAA, .909 SV%, 8-9-2), Toskala (3.91 GAA, .865 SV%, 1-4-2), Rinne (2.29 GAA, .918 SV%, 10-4-0), Rask (2.27 GAA, .919 SV%, 6-2-1) and Antero Niittymaki of Tampa Bay (2.02 GAA, .936 SV%, 6-1-3). All stats are heading into Wednesday's busy night of NHL action.

Kiprusoff has been in recent contact with Team Finland general manager Jari Kurri and head coach Jukka Jalonen, who recently traveled to Calgary to scout the NHL all-star goalie.

"We've been talking," said Kiprusoff. "I told them that I'm ready to go. But like I said, there's still many games to go (prior to February). If I'm healthy and I feel it's all right, I'm not too tired, then I'm going to go ... if they pick me.

"There's lots of competition. A lot of good goalies. We'll see. It's one of those things I can't worry about too much. We'll see what's going to happen."
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