Miikka Kiprusoff; Andrei Kostitsyn;

Kiprusoff beats Habs, new franchise wins leader

History was going to be made in Montreal. If Montreal won, Carey Price would have notched his 100th NHL win. If Calgary prevailed, Miikka Kiprusoff would become the Flames all-time leader in wins for a goaltender. Either way, one of the goaltenders would have a night for the record books.

The kid can wait—tonight was all about the veteran.

Kiprusoff was the difference maker in the Flames’ 4-1 victory in Montreal. The Finnish netminder stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced as he withstood a barrage of shots that lead Calgary to their first win of the year. The win was the 263rd with Calgary — his first 14 wins were with San Jose — moving him past Flames legend Mike Vernon for first on the all-time list. Of course, Vernon still has the edge on Kiprusoff in the all important Stanley Cup category.

It’s hard to believe the Flames acquired their franchise netminder eight years ago from the Sharks for a draft pick. Not a bad return for a 2nd rounder, eh? That first year with the Flames he cemented his place with the organization by posting an NHL record 1.69 goals against average that season and a stellar .933 save percentage en route to lead Calgary within a single game of the Stanley Cup. Kiprusoff knows things could have played out much differently if he was never traded to Calgary:

“I always believe everything happens for a reason. I had some tough times there in San Jose, but the Flames and Darryl wanted me here, they gave me a chance. It was great for me.”

Looking back, the move changed the fates for all parties involved. Kiprusoff was locked in a battle with Vesa Toskala for the right to be Evgeni Nabokov’s backup in San Jose. The Flames were looking for a decent netminder to challenge Roman Turek for the starting job between the pipes. Darryl Sutter made the trade and the rest is history.

Once again, Kiprusoff is going to carry a heavy workload as the Flames try to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Back-up Henrik Karlsson is supposed to get a few more starts this season to give the Finnish workhorse a break this season, but the fact remains that Kiprusoff has played 70+ games in each of the last five seasons. Even if he gets some much needed rest, he still could end up playing in 65+ games. As usual, the Flames playoff chances will rest on Kipper’s ability to hold it together in the net this season.

Either way, he’ll have ample opportunity to add to his franchise wins record, right?

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.