If the Calgary Flames are going to re-establish themselves as a playoff contender in the Western Conference, they'll need Miikka Kiprusoff to continue his recent stellar play.
Kiprusoff and the Flames look to get off to a 2-0 start on their season-high six-game road trip Tuesday when they face the Florida Panthers, their first such visit in more than five years.
Kiprusoff has gone 2-0-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average in the last three games, the lone defeat being a 3-2 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday. The 2005-06 Vezina Trophy winner's improved play comes after he struggled to a 10-11-4 mark and 3.00 GAA in his first 26 games.
Kiprusoff was superb again Sunday, stopping 35 shots in a 3-2 win at Chicago to begin the trip. Calgary (12-13-5), 12th in the West standings, has won a season-high two straight games on three occasions - all with Kiprusoff in net.
"It was a tight game and Miikka gave us a fantastic game tonight," Flames coach Mike Keenan said after Sunday's victory. "Earlier this season, he struggled a little bit, but this was a good road game for us."
Kiprusoff is still searching for his first shutout of the season after totaling 17 over the last two seasons, which tied New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for the most in the NHL during that span. His first career shutout came in his only game against Florida (13-15-1) on Jan. 5, 2002, a 6-0 win with San Jose.
The Flames are visiting Sunrise, Fla. for the first time since a 3-0 loss Nov. 9, 2002. Calgary won the following two meetings with Florida at home, including a 5-4 overtime victory Jan. 4.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla, among the league leaders with 16 goals and 38 points, has three goals and an assist in the last two games against the Panthers. He has managed just one goal and three assists in seven games at Florida, though.
The All-Star right wing was held pointless in Calgary's last two wins, but had two goals in the loss to the Penguins.
He's getting some scoring help from center Daymond Langkow, who netted the winner Sunday. Langkow has two goals and three assists in the last four games, giving him 11 goals and 15 assists on the season.
He has a point in his last three games against Florida.
The Panthers are looking to build on a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders as they try to close out a five-game homestand with two straight victories.
Florida opened the homestand with three consecutive one-goal losses, including a 5-4 defeat to Ottawa on Wednesday, in which goaltender Tomas Vokoun was pulled after giving up two goals on five shots in the first 7:10.
Vokoun rebounded from that performance by earning his first shutout of the season with 25 saves against New York. He's 11-3-0 with three ties, a 2.03 GAA and a shutout in 19 games - 17 starts - against the Flames.
Olli Jokinen continues to give the Panthers strong offensive production, as he has four goals and two assists in the last four games to give him a team-leading 15 goals and 30 points.
The center has a goal and three assists in the last three games against Calgary.