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Wregget gets leading role

By GEORGE JOHNSON -- Calgary Sun

Ken Wregget is currently summering in sweltering Hilton Head, S.C. But not until he reaches our city limits, sure to be cool and shrouded in cloud, does he feel he'll finally get his day in the sun.
He may, however, need UV-30 sunscreen to keep from being badly burned in this job.
"I was always thought of as a fill-in," said Wregget, valet to Tom Barrasso these past five seasons. "It didn't seem to matter how well I played when I got a chance, I wasn't going to get that chance."
Such a chance -- to be No. 1 and tutor to Calgary's roster of young goaltenders -- was handed to Rick Tabaracci just a year ago. But Tabaracci's second pitstop as a Flame has apparently ended in tatters.
With J.S. Giguere and Tyler Moss waiting in the wings, Wregget, thought of as a long reliever his entire career, will be handed the ball to start a majority of games this season.
Wregget, now 34, and wide-bodied winger Dave Roche were acquired yesterday from the Penguins for utility forward Todd Hlushko -- certain to be left available in the expansion draft by the Pens -- and out-of-favor winger German Titov.
Roche is a massive lad, 6 ft. 4 in. and 227 lbs., with a staggering total of 24 points in 132 NHL starts over two seasons as a Penguin.
"He needs a lot of work," ad-mitted GM Al Coates.
At last! Someone for Chris Dingman to play keep-away with during practice!
Titov, who departs today for his native Russia, wanted a trade and got his wish. Coach Brian Sutter didn't feel the stocky Russian was giving all he could at times last season and sporadically sat him out, leading to a rift between the two.
Titov is capable of being an impact player, used properly. Penguins coach Kevin Constantine knows exactly what he's getting -- and he's undoubtedly delighted.
"We think Titov's a solid NHLer, on the top two lines on any team in the league," he said. "And, as you know, he's the type of guy who really shines playing with good players. We like Kenny, but why have two veteran goalies when one of them sits and you get no value out of him?"
Rookie Peter Skudra's play last season convinced the Pens that he was their man of the future, and needed more starts.
"I'm sad to leave Calgary," said Titov, off to play soccer with some pals. "But maybe is time. Pittsburgh has good tradition, they play the style I do. Maybe I can win Stanley Cup."
Maybe he can find himself on a line alongside Ron Francis and Jaromir Jagr.
"I hope!" he laughed. "Would be great."
Clearly, the onus is on Wregget.
"Don't forget, he played a majority of Pittsburgh's games the four years before this one, because of injuries to Barrasso," said Coates. "And enjoyed some real success."
Indeed, before going 3-6-2 in a paltry 15 starts this season, Wregget was 83-51-17 in the previous four years. But, remember, that was fronted by Mario, Jaromir and Francis, not the scratch-'n'-claw Flames.
"It was kind of a shock," conceded Wregget. "It kind of popped out of nowhere ... but that's usually the way trades happen. The more talk, the less chance of something being done. I played junior in Lethbridge, with Ron and Rich Sutter, so I know the area. Getting to play for Brian Sutter is a big plus for me."
Without doubt, this is Ken's show now.
Budget-conscious outfits such as this one don't commit to $1.2 million US on back-up puck-blockers. Even well-heeled clubs like the Pens are reluctant to anymore, either.
That, and Sutter's disenchantment with Titov, made the transaction possible.
"I've always said quarterbacking, pitching and goaltending are the keys to winning championships," said Coates. "We finished six points out of a playoff spot.
"We finished 23rd in the league in goaltending and last in save percentage. Obviously we felt it was an area we needed to upgrade."
The announcement continues the shaping of the type of team Sutter wants. They're going at it with a meat cleaver, not a pocket knife. And the hacking isn't finished yet.
Ron Stern. Bum knee? Getting on? So long, and good luck.
James Patrick, an unrestricted free agent July 1, hasn't heard a whisper from Coates.
And Tabaracci now is certainly the netminder to be dangled when the Nashville Predators get their opportunity to select the most mundane team $75 million US can buy.
"I'm not going to form an opinion until someone tells me I'm not being protected," Tabaracci responded yesterday, but didn't sound all that convincing.
Who wins this deal? Well, on face value, today the Flames have changed one veteran, career second-string goaltender for another. And they've lost one quality forward.
Which is one less than they can afford.


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