SUN Hockey Pool

Mellow Yelle

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

When Stephane Yelle misses a game, you know he's suffering.

When he misses six, you have to wonder just how serious his injury may be.

The Calgary Flames' notoriously tough centre left the Dec. 17 game against the Boston Bruins after blocking a shot somewhere near the ankle.

After X-rays and examinations by team doctors, Yelle was diagnosed as day-to-day with a bone bruise.

While the penalty-killing machine expected to suit up for the next game a couple of nights later in Edmonton, Yelle was scratched for the 5-4 Flames loss at Rexall Place and hasn't played since. Still, Yelle insists there is nothing more to the aggravating injury.

"We've gone through all the examinations and stuff," said Yelle yesterday. "No, it's still the same thing that it was when we first diagnosed it.

"It's not where it needs to be. Again, we'll take it day-to-day."

Two weeks after the injury, Yelle skated alone yesterday before his teammates hit the ice for an optional practice in preparation of their New Year's Eve contest against the Oilers at the 'Dome.

"I was on the ice for maybe 20 minutes just to see how it felt in my skate," said Yelle, who admits he's not sure when he'll be able to return.

"We'll see how it reacts a little later today."

The Flames could use their veteran defensive specialist, who scored a shorthanded goal against Boston just before he was hurt.

In the six games Yelle has been out, the team has allowed an average of 3.7 goals.

When he's in the lineup, the Flames have allowed an average of 2.3 -- including the 20 goals allowed during the first four games of their season.

The Flames will likely have grinder Darren McCarty, who missed three games because of a hip flexor, back in the lineup tonight but are without two key defencemen in Rhett Warrener and Roman Hamrlik.

Hamrlik sprained his knee Dec. 7 in New Jersey and has missed eight games in three weeks. He is considered week-to-week and has started skating but likely won't return until the middle of January when the Flames get back from a four-game road swing.

Warrener avoided a potentially serious knee injury in Vancouver just before Christmas but strained the muscle around his ribs during the loss to Nashville Tuesday night and may miss a few more games.

Like Yelle, the injured players will have to make the best of their situation and hope the team continues to thrive in their absence.

It's not easy for them to watch, though.

"It's always hard to be off the ice and watch the guys play and not be part of it," said Yelle. "But I'm around the guys in the dressing room and, for now, it's all I can do."


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