CALGARY – Abbotsford Heat goalie Leland Irving tasted his first game-type action of the pre-season on Monday, and he turned in a solid performance during an intra-squad scrimmage at Calgary Flames training camp.
Irving was nearly flawless during his 30 minutes of action, highlighted by a nice pad save on Lance Bouma on a two-on-one break.
The lone blemish on his record came courtesy of T.J. Brodie, a teammate with the Heat last year. Brodie took a cross-ice feed from Alex Tanguay and ripped a picture-perfect shot from the top of the circle that rang in off the crossbar.
“It was a great shot,” Irving observed with a wry grin. “I talked to him after, and he was just trying to get it past the block out front. When it’s bar-down like that, there’s not a lot you’re going to be able to do about it.
“It (the scrimmage) went kind of how I expected. It was a little scrambly to start, but after I was able to feel the puck a little bit, things slowed down a little bit and I got a little more comfortable.”
Irving will get another healthy dose of NHL-calibre competition when the Flames take on the Vancouver Canucks in a pair of split-squad exhibition games on Tuesday – one at Vancouver’s Rogers Centre, one at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Flames head coach Brent Sutter said that Irving is slated to play the entire 60 minutes of Tuesday’s game in Vancouver. Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson, the NHL tandem, will split the goaltending chores at the game in Calgary.
“It’s exciting,” said Irving, named the Heat’s team MVP last season after leading the AHL with eight shutouts. “Any time you get a chance to step on the ice with this calibre of players, it’s a big challenge. It’s what we work all summer for.”
BRODIE FINDING FORM
Monday’s scrimmage was comprised of two running-time 30-minute halves – Irving and Joni Ortio tending the net for the white team, and Kiprusoff and Karlsson handling the chores for the black team.
The white team claimed a 3-2 victory, with former Heat centre Mikael Backlund scoring twice and Jay Bouwmeester adding a single. Brodie and Rene Bourque replied for the black team.
By his own admission, Brodie hasn’t gotten off to the start he’d envisioned in the pre-season. That’s why it felt so good to score a pretty goal with the Flames brass looking on.
“It’s always nice to make those plays – unfortunately it’s practice,” he said with a chuckle. “I thought I played better today. My legs are feeling better each day. I’m still trying to find the tape on some of the passes, and making the smart plays out there.”
Brodie will suit up for the pre-season game in Calgary on Tuesday.
“It’s a big game, and everyone’s trying to prove something and get a spot,” he said. “It’s an opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it and play the best I can.”
WARD EYES NEW PIECES
During Monday’s scrimmage, Heat head coach Troy Ward was keeping a close eye on newcomers who could end up in Abbotsford this year.
“There are a lot of guys I don’t really know that well,” Ward said, mentioning blueliners Clay Wilson, Derek Smith and Brendan Mikkelson, and forward Guillaume Desbiens. “I kind of wanted to figure out some other parts of the puzzle.”
Ward said that a group of players will be flying into Abbotsford on Thursday, with the first on-ice session slated for Friday afternoon.