SUN Hockey Pool

Foes overcome injuries

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

CALGARY -- The Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames went into last night's game with a combined record of 11-1 in their past 12 games, quite a feat considering both clubs have been getting sliced up in the injury department.

"You get used to it," Calgary general manager/coach Darryl Sutter said. "Every team I've ever been on, you get to a point in the schedule where you run into a rash of injuries. You either use it as a good reason for someone to play better or to play more, or use it as a poor excuse."

For the Leafs, winning streaks coupled with long injury lists are nothing new. When the club was healthy and on a long home stand in December, it couldn't get a break.

"We always step up it seems," Leafs' defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "We have a lot of character in here, and some good youth in the system. When guys go down, guys step up and we really don't miss a beat."

SMILES ON THE RED MILE

Where recent Stanley Cup finalists such as the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes disappeared after their surprise runs, the Flames are back contending for first place in the Western Conference.

"We have a very different team, nine or 10 new guys," defenceman Andrew Ference said. "But the identity of the team was the biggest issue, not getting away from lessons we learned on that playoff drive. We know that hard work, good system work and details were the biggest factor (in 2004), not talent. We came out and had a rough start because we did forget a few of those things."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla, picked by many people to win the Art Ross or Maurice Richard trophies, had 16 goals and 16 assists before the Flames reached the halfway mark of the schedule last night.

"Jarome's (career) numbers are dead on," Sutter said in his defence. "He does everything for us. When I got here, the thinking was as long as Jarome scored when the team lost, everything was cool. But Jarome would gladly take 30 to 40 goals and play some instrumental minutes if the team does well."


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