CALGARY – Miikka Kiprusoff was perfect Sunday night, and he helped the Calgary Flames finish up the pre-season the same way.
Kiprusoff made 27 saves and Alex Tanguay scored the lone goal as the Flames won 1-0 over the Edmonton Oilers to finish up exhibition play a perfect 7-0.
“It’s very positive, especially when everyone’s written us off that we’re not going to be a very good team,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
“In here, we feel we’re going to be a very good team and we’re going to be better than last year. We’ve been trying some new things and this makes us a more confident team going into the season.”
Calgary is the lone NHL team to finish the pre-season without a loss. Washington was also unbeaten at 5-0 before losing 3-0 Sunday night to Nashville.
Edmonton finished up 4-2.
The game was a mostly a lacklustre affair with just seven minor penalties, hardly reflecting the usual passion that normally comes when these provincial rivals meet.
All the energy, emotion and excitement notably missing from Sunday night’s game will likely be present Thursday night in Edmonton, when the teams meet again in one of five games on the schedule for opening night of the NHL regular season.
Iginla says the last exhibition game is always a challenge to get up for.
“This is probably one of the harder ones, it really is,” Iginla said. “Everyone’s been in camp for a few weeks now, we’ve been skating for a couple months, and you can’t wait to get going. Especially when you’re going to be playing them again. It’s like a dress rehearsal. “
Kiprusoff’s best stop came four minutes into the third period, providing a much needed dose of excitement for the sellout Saddledome crowd of 19,289. The 33-year-old veteran sprawled across the crease as he followed Oilers young star Jordan Eberle, then acrobatically kicked up his top pad to knock away Eberle’s shot as it looked like it was going in.
“He’s looked ready right from day one,” said Iginla, assessing Kiprusoff’s play. “Even though sometimes fans think he’s just happy-go-lucky, he’s very driven, very competitive guy, and you can see he’s in great form already.”
Calgary’s goal came 5:36 into the first period on a power play. Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk failed to corral the puck after it caromed off the end boards and in the ensuing scramble, Tanguay jabbed the puck inside the goal post.
Edmonton used the game to take a last look at several players competing for positions both up front and on defence. Those forwards on the brink that were hoping to impress and land a spot on the opening night roster included Alexandre Giroux, Randy Jones, Linus Omark, Ryan O’Marra and Ben Ondrus.
“We’ve got some good players right now and it’s exciting for us. Now, we’ll talk it over and make decisions based on the body of work and see where we end up,” said Renney.
Dubnyk played the first half of the game recording 17 stops. Jeff Deslauriers took over at that point and turned aside all 10 shots he faced.
Edmonton still has 32 players in camp while Calgary has 30. Both teams need to whittle that number down to a maximum of 23 players by Wednesday.
Injuries could reduce the number of decisions Calgary has to make. The Flames could place as many as five players—all forwards—on injured reserve to start the season. The latest two veterans to be knocked out of the line-up indefinitely are Alex Kotalik (knee) and David Moss (shoulder), who were both injured Friday night in Edmonton. Daymond Langkow (neck), Matt Stajan (shoulder) and Ryan Stone (knee) were already sidelined.
Centre Stefan Meyer and left-winger Brett Sutter are two of the new faces considered to be the favourites to make the opening day roster.
“I came here to show everybody what I’m about,” said Meyer, 25, who was previously with the Florida Panthers organization. “I was a second round pick and I had a chance to play in the NHL and probably would have played a little bit longer but I hurt myself and I never got my chance back.”
“They know what I’m about now. They know I’m willing to do anything to win a hockey game for a team. I’ll be the first guy at the rink, first guy on the treadmill, first guy in the weight room, I’ll do anything,” said Meyer.”I scratched and clawed and gave myself a chance so I’m not going to be losing much sleep over what happened at camp and I’ll just cross my fingers now.”
Notes: After the game, Calgary reduced its training camp roster to 30 sending forwards John Armstrong and Jon Rheault and goaltender Leland Irving to Abbotsford (AHL). Left in came are 18 forwards, 10 defence and two goalies… Calgary plays Edmonton twice in its first four games of the regular season making it four meetings in the first 16 days of October.