Preview: Flames vs. Blue Jackets
Entering the second stop on his team's longest road trip of the season, the Calgary Flames' top goaltender is well-rested.
They didn't miss a beat without him in their last contest.
Miikka Kiprusoff will be back between the pipes Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Flames go for a season-high fourth straight win.
The sport's most durable workhorse at his position, Kiprusoff has started an astonishing 471 games - 45 more than any other goaltender - since the start of 2005-06. His 254 wins in that span account for more than 92 percent of Calgary's total.
The Flames (17-15-4) have won only once in seven games this season that Kiprusoff did not start, but that victory came Friday night in Vancouver. Making his second career start, rookie Leland Irving turned aside 29 of 30 shots as Calgary won 3-1 to open a seven-game, two-week trip that will stretch as far south at Nashville and as far east as Boston.
"He was very poised," Flames coach Brent Sutter said of Irving. "A couple saves he made in the last two-and-a-half, three minutes were obviously huge. He was very much under control."
He also gave Kiprusoff the chance to take four full days off between starts. Now, the veteran will try to lead the Flames to their first four-game winning streak since Jan. 21-Feb. 3, when they won six in a row.
That task might seem easy against the league-worst Blue Jackets (9-22-4), but two of Columbus' wins this season have come at Calgary's expense. Kiprusoff was in net for the most recent matchup, a 4-3 shootout loss at home Dec. 1, when Rick Nash tied the game in the final minute of regulation and then scored to win it in the tiebreaker.
The Blue Jackets captain also scored in his club's 4-1 home victory over the Flames on Nov. 21.
Nash put a game-high six shots on net Monday night at Chicago, but none of them got past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford as Columbus fell 4-1 despite a 38-22 shots advantage.
James Wisniewski scored in the third period to help the Blue Jackets avoid the shutout, but took no consolation from just his second goal of the year.
"We couldn't take advantage and score any goals," Wisniewski said. "But it's been a broken record this year."
It was the fifth straight loss for Columbus, which has allowed 16 goals in its last three games - three of them in Monday's second period alone.
"We're back to doing some of the things we did early in the year," coach Scott Arniel said. "We were doing a lot of good things through a long period of time and now (our defensive coverage) certainly wasn't there (Monday) in the second period.
"It's an area we had improved on and now it's back to square one."
Calgary winger Alex Tanguay has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. His status for this contest is uncertain.