Karlsson putting it all on the line to win Flames backup job
Swedish tender shrugs off shot to the nether-regions as he gets ready to battle Leland Irving
Impact, according to one bystander, had caused a rather loud noise.
Not a sonic boom. More like a sharp cracking sound.
Henrik Karlsson, however, vehemently refutes this account, proving that all of the red-faced yelping and on-ice writhing did nothing to impair his recollection of the incident.
“Well, I’m pretty sure it didn’t crack,” the Calgary Flames goalie, managing a laugh, said of his most recent brush with south-of-the-equator agony. “That was OK. That was fine. Right away it felt bad, but it goes away pretty fast. Not bad at all.”
So not the worst ever?
“Not even close,” he said. “I’ve had some bad ones. Then it’s not so fun. Tough to breath.”
Having pucks drummed into your groin is not pleasant, of course, but it does come with the territory. Meaning Karlsson — like every other goalie in the world — has made his peace with this unique brand of punishment.
Which happens to be especially common for backups.
Because when skaters in practice are eager to work on deflections, when they are keen to see how hard they can rifle the puck, well, they’re not going to experiment at Miikka Kiprusoff’s end of the rink. Meal tickets get a pass. Backups get a pasting.
No matter. This is exactly what Karlsson is hoping for heading into Sunday’s camp — to lay claim, once again, to the second-string role.
“I know what I can do and I know I’m a good goalie,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to think about (other challengers for the gig). I feel good. I obviously haven’t played a game for a while. Conditioning is getting good, technique too, so I feel good.
“Body’s great. Nothing to complain about.”
Last season a knee injury — suffered Dec. 4 in Vancouver — opened the door for Leland Irving’s debut and the possibility that Karlsson’s days in Calgary were over.
But the gangly Swede is determined to stay.
Since September, he’s been one of the most faithful participants at the informal on-ice sessions at the WinSport Ice Complex.
“Karlsson’s been here the whole time,” said Calgary Dinos goalie coach Brad Kirkwood, who’s been chipping in with the locked-out players from the start. “His work ethic has been incredible. He’s in the gym, and then he comes out early and we work on a bunch of stuff. Then he’s here for about two hours after that working on a bunch of stuff. It’s incredible.”
Said Karlsson of the rave reviews: “That’s nice to hear. Obviously I try to work hard every day, try to get better. I’m real excited for this year. I know I can play. I know I have it in me. I’m just here to prove that I’m a good goalie.”
Karlsson, all six-foot-six and 212 pounds of him, certainly appears confident.
New gear, right out of the wrapper and trotted out Wednesday morning, speaks volumes about his preferred destination — sparkling white pads and gloves . . . and, yes, a very, very Flames-specific mask.
“I’m going to push for starts (in Calgary) and do whatever I can to get some games this year,” said Karlsson. “We all know how good Kipper is, but I definitely feel real excited about this year. I’ve got to bounce back from last year and, hopefully, get a lot more wins.”
He is keenly aware that he needs to avoid another campaign like 2011-12, during which he was 1-4-2 — the lone victory arriving in Game 82 — with a 3.17 goals-against average.
“They’re high,” said Karlsson, 29. “I think I had a decent first year when I came here (and went 4-5-6 as a rookie). A lot of expectations for last year and obviously it didn’t go (well) at all. But I think I learned a lot. I came through an injury, struggled there for a bit, but I feel great coming into this year.
“All or nothing, I’m just going to give my best. I have a good feeling. I’m ready to go. Absolutely.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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