No NHL goaltender has been called upon more often over the last seven years than Miikka Kiprusoff, but the Calgary Flames will be without him for at least Thursday night’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kiprusoff’s absence could be a boon for the Blue Jackets, who have struggled to score as much as any team in the league.
The Flames (2-3-2) are last in the Western Conference – one point behind Columbus (3-6-1) – although they have played the fewest games in the league and three fewer than the Blue Jackets.
They’re hopeful Tuesday’s 4-1 victory at Detroit is the beginning of a turnaround, but they suffered a potentially difficult loss in the game. Kiprusoff collided with the Red Wings’ Johan Franzen during the second period and exited before the third with a lower-body injury.
Backup Leland Irving played the final 20 minutes, stopping all six shots he faced. Calgary signed Danny Taylor, who has never started an NHL game, from AHL affiliate Abbotsford on Wednesday.
Kiprusoff’s 517 starts since 2005-06 are the most in the league, and he’s played in at least 70 games each of the last seven seasons. He hasn’t missed time with an injury since an 18-game absence with a sprained left knee ligament in 2004.
The Finnish veteran said in a statement Wednesday that he believes it is a “short-term injury” after the team announced he is day-to-day.
“You take for granted how good he is and how consistent he is,” team captain Jarome Iginla said. “He’s a big part of our team.”
Iginla finally broke through for his first goal Tuesday after being held without one for the first six games, his longest drought to start a season since he scored goal No. 1 in his 12th contest in 1999-00.
Calgary’s four goals tied a season high despite a season-low 23 shots.
“Always the first of the year, it’s nice to get over,” said Iginla, the franchise’s all-time leader with 517 goals. “Every single year, you want to get that first one off your back.”
The Blue Jackets have been anemic, scoring two goals or fewer in seven of their last eight games. Their 7.2 shooting percentage and 1.90 goals per game both rank near the very bottom of the league.
Columbus’ offense faltered again in a 4-2 home loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Blue Jackets failed to capitalize on three power plays, including a four-minute double minor early in the third period on which they recorded one shot while trailing by one goal.
“I’ve talked about how your power play can create positive energy,” coach Todd Richards said. “That four minutes were really just draining the clock. We spent more time working back to our zone than we did in the offensive zone. Our execution wasn’t good.”
Brandon Dubinsky should be in the lineup after avoiding a suspension for a hit on Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi that drew a boarding major. Dubinsky was fined $10,000, the maximum allowed under the new NHL collective bargaining agreement.
The forward ranks second on the Blue Jackets with four assists, but is still looking for his first goal since coming over from the New York Rangers in the Rick Nash trade.
These teams are each 12-8-4 in their last 24 meetings, with neither winning more than two in a row over that span. The final three matchups last season went to shootouts.