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Three competing to replace Kiprusoff in Flames net

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- Karri Ramo grew up idolizing Miikka Kiprusoff. He may be tasked with replacing him.

For the first time in the better part of a decade, the Calgary Flames' crease is open for competition after Kiprusoff ended months of speculation and officially announced his retirement in advance of training camp.

Ramo is one of three candidates to slide in between the pipes as the Flames begin their search for Kiprusoff's heir apparent.

"He was one of the best goalies who ever played and I really looked up to him when I was younger," 22-year-old Ramo said. "I followed him a lot since 2004. He was one of the biggest idols for me.

"It would be really nice to play with him but there's not that chance anymore."

Ramo instead has the opportunity to earn Kiprusoff's starting role. Swiss import Reto Berra and returning veteran Joey MacDonald are the other contenders.

"You have to be your best and when you stop a lot of pucks you're going to play," Ramo said. "That's the same thing right now. It would've been the same thing with [Kiprusoff]. It doesn't change."

Kiprusoff, 36, left as the Flames' leader in wins (305), shutouts (41) and games (576). Calgary's three candidates have won a combined 50 NHL games.

MacDonald spent the shortened 2012-13 season with the Flames after being acquired off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings in February. He had an 8-9-1 record with a 2.87 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

MacDonald's advantage comes in NHL experience; the 33-year-old has played 122 games. Ramo has appeared in 48, and Berra has yet to have one.

"Me being the older guy that everyone is kind of looking up to is a little bit different," MacDonald said. "It puts a little bit more pressure on me to battle for that No. 1 spot. When you've got goaltenders battling for one spot, it's good competitiveness."

MacDonald has played more than 21 games in an NHL season once, meaning he's far from a lock to be named Calgary's starter. The experience of having gone through nearly a dozen camps does give him a decided edge in earning a spot on the roster.

"It's kind of nice coming into the season knowing that you've got a good chance at being the No. 1 or the No. 2, whatever it is," said MacDonald, who played a career-high 49 games in 2008-09 for the New York Islanders. "It makes it a little bit easier on your brain knowing that and knowing you've got more experience than the rest.

"Hockey's a strange game, though. You never know what's going to take place and injuries and stuff like that. It can change in a hurry. You've just got to give yourself the best opportunity to take advantage."

Berra is making his North American debut after spending his career in Switzerland.

"I don't try to think too much about all the other guys, all the other goalies," the 26-year-old said. "I have my own goals, what I want to reach and I try to just get better every time I step on the ice."

Berra steps into the crease as an underdog to start the season with the Flames. But his experience with Calgary coach Bob Hartley may give him a leg up; Hartley faced Berra as coach of the ZSC Lions in Switzerland.

"He knows me a little bit when he coached in Zurich and he played against me," Berra said. "He gave me a call and we spoke a little bit together about normal stuff, about life and other things and how the other guys he knows from his old team in Zurich. Things like that."

Berra wasn't willing to admit the familiarity between gives him any sort of advantage.

"At the end, it just matters what's out here on the ice right now and not about what was in the past," he said.

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