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Will Miikka Kiprusoff's Olympic Dreams Hurt Calgary Flames' Playoff Chances?

Scott Fitzsimmons@@Chuck_SimmsAnalyst IDecember 3, 2009

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Miikka Kiprusoff #34 gets set to stop a shot by teammate Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames in the pre game warm-up prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 14,2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Flames won 5-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Calgary Flames are flying high right now, riding the success of their big two, Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

The team has been winning pretty much all season long, but the recent games have Iggy and Kipper playing as well as anyone in the game.

As we have seen in the past, where Kipper goes, the Flames go. With Kiprusoff on the top of his game, things are looking up...or are they?

There are a few trends I see that could have the Flames ending in the same situation as past years.

Back in 2006 during Kiprusoff's Vezina year, he decided to pass on the Olympics and focus on the Flames. It worked for him during the season, but the Flames didn't have much left in the playoffs as they lost in seven to the Ducks.

Kipper played 74 games that year, and it was the first thought from fans that maybe 74 games is too many for him to play and make a long run in the playoffs. Kiprusoff played 74, 76, and 76 games in the three years after that with the same outcome in the playoffs—a first round exit.

We heard from Brent Sutter that Kipper wasn't going to play as many games this year. The trend this year isn't looking like that will change much. Curtis McElhinney has played three of the Flames' first 26 games, but that pace only saves Kipper four to six games.

Seventy games this season wouldn't be a bad load to carry before the playoffs—that is, if it wasn't an Olympic year.

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Miikka has said he would play for the Finns in the Olympics if he was guaranteed the starting position. The good thing is there are a lot of Finnish goalies that have been playing very well as of late. The bad thing is, none have been playing as well as Kiprusoff. Chances are he'd be the starter for Finland come February.

So this leaves the question, what are the Flames to do?

Kipper is the odds-on favorite for the Finns in goal, so we have to expect he's going to start at the Olympics. But we have seen McElhinney step up his game the last two, and the team has finally started playing well in front of McElhinney.

When the new year rolls around, I think it will be very important to give Kipper some big games off on either side of the Olympics and close to the end of the season, and we could finally see a rested Kiprusoff going into the playoffs.

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