Bob Hartley was coy about Miikka Kiprusoff’s potential availability for Wednesday’s match against the San Jose Sharks.

“I don’t know,” the coach chirped at reporters. “Buy a lottery ticket.”

Hartley can afford to horse around because the news is generally good — the Calgary Flames’ meal ticket is nearly ready to return from his knee injury.

Exactly when, though, has not been determined.

But Kiprusoff’s practice participation has been steadily ramped up, with no setbacks.

“The medical staff felt he was good to go with having his own net (Monday),” said Hartley, meaning Kiprusoff absorbed the lion’s share of shots, despite there being two other goalies — Joey MacDonald and Danny Taylor — on the premises. “We’re very careful. But, at the same time, he told me after practice that he felt great, that he had no pain.”

Kiprusoff has been sidelined since being hurt Feb. 5 making a save — not, as previously reported, in a collision with Johan Franzen — at Detroit. Monday morning, tending the home end of the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Finn appeared to be his old self. In other words, sharp.

“He looked good,” said Jarome Iginla. “It’s great to see him out there. He was going down (into the butterfly) . . . so hopefully he’s feeling good and will be back soon. We’ve gotten really good goaltending” — from Leland Irving, MacDonald, Taylor — “but you always look forward to getting Kipper back.

“He’s been so good for us for so long, he’s a big, big part of our team.”

In Kiprusoff’s lengthy association with the Flames, this marks only the second time he has missed a significant stretch of games.

The first occurrence? Way back in 2004 when he sat out all of January, also with knee issues.



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