VANCOUVER – He made only 12 saves Tuesday night, but Swedish goalie Henrik Karlsson still made a big impression in his NHL debut.
Big, as in six-foot-six.
“I like the small rink,” said Karlsson who blanked the Vancouver Canucks for 40 minutes in a 3-1 Calgary Flames pre-season win. “I think every big goalie will agree.
“The puck is going quicker and the guys know how to shoot the puck here.”
The lanky Karlsson, signed as the likely backup for Miikka Kiprusoff, had a 2.54 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 34 games last season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League last season.
“I was focused,” said Karlsson who didn’t display any nerves in his first NHL test.
“I wanted to play really good. Some things worked OK but some things I’ll have to work on. The stick play wasn’t so good for me. I pretty much stayed in the net the whole game.”
Niklas Hagman, Rene Bourque and Staffan Kronwall, on the power play, scored for Calgary in the split-squad game. The Flames beat another Canuck squad 3-2 in Calgary on Tuesday.
Hagman stickhandled through several Canucks to beat starting netminder Cory Schneider.
Bourque and Kronwall gave Calgary a three-goal cushion by scoring on the first two shots of the third period on David Shantz, who was assigned to the AHL Manitoba Moose after the game.
Raffi Torres, acquired in the off-season to bring some grit to the Canucks, tapped a loose puck behind Matt Keetley, Karlsson’s third-period replacement, during a Vancouver power play.
There were few quality chances as both teams iced diluted lineups because of the split-squad format.
“It was typical pre-season, some sloppy play but overall I think we did a lot of good things,” said Flames veteran Steve Staios after his club outshot Vancouver 23-21.
“We were jumping up in the play and keeping pucks in and just bringing pressure for most of the game.”
Karlsson said the speed of the NHL game and traffic in front of him were the main differences from playing on the larger European ice surface.
“They are in front of me all the time so you have to work harder to see the puck all the time here,” he said. “There’s more pucks to the net all the time … and you have to be ready for the rebound.”
Kronwall, who skated with Karlsson for a month in Sweden this summer, said his teammate was comfortable in net.
“He’s a big body but he moves like he’s six feet and he’s really almost seven (feet),” said Kronwall. “It helps a lot.
“Nowadays it’s all about traffic and the bigger you are the more likely the puck’s going to hit you. He covers a lot of net and I think that’s huge in today’s hockey.”
Both clubs lost regulars in the first period. Matt Stajan of the Flames suffered a shoulder injury while Canuck Rick Rypien had a rib problem. Both had only five shifts.
NOTES: Former Canucks Brendan Morrison (21:40 of ice time) and Peter Schaefer (15:08) were back in Vancouver uniforms after being invited to training camp on professional tryouts … also assigned to the Moose were centres Marco Rosa and Stefan Schneider and left-winger Shawn Weller … winger Steven Anthony and defenceman Adam Polasek were returned to their junior clubs while forward Pierre-Olivier Morin was released.