Chicago Blackhawks Face an Unfamiliar Goalie vs. Calgary Flames Sunday, but Who?
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In the past, the Blackhawks have sent shots the way of Miikka Kiprusoff, who retired last spring after a long career, including nine seasons with the Flames. Chicago knew that playing the Flames meant trying to beat Kiprusoff, who was a real work horse.
Over the past three seasons, the 'Hawks saw the Finnish veteran in 10 of a possible 11 games. Though the Flames were usually the less talented group on the ice, Kiprusoff managed a 4-4-1 mark in those games to go with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
Joey MacDonald was in net the lone time Kiprusoff didn't start against Chicago during that stretch. However, one thing that is certain Sunday is that the 'Hawks won't see MacDonald in net.
The Flames put MacDonald on waivers, as per Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald, on Saturday morning following a poor performance against Detroit the night before. As of Sunday morning, Calgary wasn't sure who would start in goal against the Blackhawks, who have scored 16 goals during their current three-game win streak.
Flames coach Bob Hartley was mulling over the starting assignment on the plane trip to Chicago. After the abbreviated MacDonald era, Hartley has two options.
The goalie of the immediate future for the Flames is Reto Berra, who was called up to replace MacDonald on the Flames roster. The 26-year-old Swiss netminder was in goal for the 3-0 win over the U.S. in the semifinal of last spring's World Championships, where Switzerland won the silver medal.
Berra has just nine games of AHL experience in North America and would be making his NHL debut against the Blackhawks. If that doesn't materialize, Chicago will be shooting on Karri Ramo. Ramo is 2-3-1 this season with a 3.49 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage.
The 'Hawks have faced Ramo in one previous game, way back on Feb. 17, 2009. Ramo, then with the Tampa Bay Lightning, faced 49 shots and allowed five in a 5-3 Chicago victory. Jonathan Toews burned Ramo for two goals, and Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith each added a goal.
Hopefully they were taking notes and will share with the rest of the Blackhawks.
Chicago will be going up against some familiar faces elsewhere in the lineup, beginning with center Jiri Hudler. The former Red Wings mainstay is in his second season with Calgary and is currently pacing the team's offense with 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.
Sean Monahan leads the Flames with seven goals. As a team, Calgary is averaging three goals a contest, though it is next to last in the NHL in goals allowed (3.54).
The Flames' penalty kill has been nearly as bad as Chicago's; though, like the 'Hawks, they have limited the opportunities. Calgary and Chicago are 25th (78.0) and 30th (73.2) in kill percentage but are tied for third in the league for fewest times shorthanded (41).
Chicago has had scoring from all over the lineup. Brandon Bollig recorded a goal and had an assist to Ben Smith Saturday in the Blackhawks' 5-1 pasting of Winnipeg. Patrick Sharp is starting to find the twine after a slow start.
The Blackhawks have at least three goals in each of their last seven games heading into Sunday's tilt with Calgary. Chicago has been firing nearly 34 shots per game at opposing goalies. Whichever goalie Calgary decides to put in net to face the 'Hawks had better be ready for a busy evening.
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