SUN Hockey Pool

Leo's raring to roar again

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

These days, long-term plans for Jordan Leopold aren't even contemplated.

Besides, he's excited about what's been happening short-term.

This week, the Calgary Flames defenceman finally returned to the ice in his recovery from a mid-August concussion suffered just before the World Cup of Hockey. That means medical clearance could be just around the corner.

"I don't know what the future looks like but hopefully I can get back out on the ice for real, soon," Leopold said yesterday at the Saddledome.

"It's day by day right now and I'm feeling better, a lot better than a few weeks ago. The main thing is to get healthy, so if we have to take our time, we have to take our time.

"With what's happening and the uncertainty of the season, it's just smarter to not rush myself and make sure I'm healthy 100 percent rather than get back at it 85 or 90 percent ... and possibly damage myself worse."

Leopold, 24, skated for the first time on Monday. He'd spent the fall going through the recovery protocol after suffering a head injury during an exhibition game leading up to the World Cup of Hockey.

Like teammate Matthew Lombardi, he's collecting his NHL paycheque during the lockout. However, Leopold's salary of $950,000 US is being covered by an insurance plan paid for through the World Cup tournament and not at a cost to the Flames.

Lombardi, who is on the road to recovery from the concussion he suffered in the second round of the playoffs, has been skating on a daily basis for a week.

Even though it's not Leopold's first concussion -- he missed the first four games of the 2002-03 campaign with a head injury -- having been through a recovery before doesn't make the process any easier.

"Any time you have a head injury, it's frustrating," said the defenceman, who collected 32 points (9-23-32) last season. "You can't control your symptoms. If you have a broken wrist or something, you know there's regular exercise, treatment, therapy, all that.

"With a concussion, there's nothing. You sit down and not do anything too strenuous."

At this point, the skating isn't too strenuous -- about 15 minutes, with a stationary bike ride afterwards.

A timeline for when he'd be termed game-fit isn't even being contemplated. As for thoughts on playing in Europe -- not being on a entry level, two-way contract, he'd need to sign an AHL deal to play for Lowell -- Leopold is putting that on the backburner.

"It's not something even on my mind, yet," he said. "Maybe in the second half of winter, it will cross my mind but right now it's just about getting healthy."

As for Lombardi, the plan is to play in Lowell when he's healthy enough to return to game action. When that will be, however, is still anyone's guess.

"We'll ramp it up and do more testing to see how I feel," he said yesterday.

Lombardi is collecting his salary of $550,000 US and will take a substantial paycut when he's deemed healthy enough but he doesn't mind.

"I don't care. I just want to play."

BYRON BANGED UP: Another Flame has succumbed to injury overseas. Byron Ritchie, who was playing for Rogle in the Swedish Second Division, is out up to six weeks after breaking his ankle. Up until the injury, he'd collected 20 points in 15 games.


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