Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crowded Goaltending Situation "A Nice Problem to Have" as Heat Open AHL Season

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crowded Goaltending Situation "A Nice Problem to Have" as Heat Open AHL Season

Article excerpt

Heat open season with wealth of goaltending

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ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Abbotsford Heat will have one of three goaltenders with NHL experience on the ice when they kick off their American Hockey League season.

Trying to decide which one will start is a problem Heat head coach Troy Ward doesn't mind dealing with.

Ward has the choice of Leland Irving, Danny Taylor or Barry Brust when the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate hosts the Peoria Rivermen on Friday. He also has to figure out which goalie is going to be a healthy scratch.

"I beg that the better question is who's sitting in the stands," Ward said. "It is a good problem to have."

Irving, who played seven games with Calgary last season and was poised to back up Miikka Kiprusoff this year, is back in Abbotsford due to the NHL lockout.

Taylor returns after he unseated Irving as the starting goaltender late last season. The Heat went with Taylor, who has just 20 minutes of NHL experience under his belt, throughout the playoffs despite the fact Irving is the franchise's top goaltending prospect.

Brust signed in the summer, further complicating the issue.

"Barry was brought in to battle for the starting job," Ward said. "He's won a lot of games for me in the past."

Brust played last season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top league, but jumped at a chance to return to North America. His familiarity with Abbotsford and with the coaching staff gave him incentive to get back on the track, in hope of returning to the NHL. He played 11 games in 2006-07 for the Los Angeles Kings.

"It was six years ago I lucked into a situation to play in the NHL," Brust said. "A lot's changed in six years. I've grown a lot as a goaltender and as a person. I'm still kind of holding on to things and with a break here and there, who knows what'll happen."

Irving says that there's no animosity between the three goaltenders.

"We kind of leave it all on the ice," he said. "Off the ice we all get along great."

Another player returning to North America after a season in Europe is Trail, B.C. native Steve McCarthy. The veteran of 302 NHL games played with Flames' new coach Bob Hartley last year for Zurich and earned a contract after a solid camp in Abbotsford.

"It's my NHL starting Friday," McCarthy said. "That's how I approach it and the great thing is everybody in that room and the coaches approach it the same way."

Ben Walter, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 59 points, says the NHL lockout could lead to a better chance to get noticed by the Flames' coaching staff.

"For an older guy like me, maybe they wouldn't have watch our group of guys as much, if they had their own team to worry about," Walter said.

However, even the rookies are feeling extra pressure with otherwise NHL-bound players competing for jobs in the AHL. …

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