SUN Hockey Pool

Yelle pushes for return

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

No more crutches, no more walking cast.

Which means Stephane Yelle was good to go back on the ice.

Yelle, out since suffering a nasty ankle injury in the Oct. 19 game against the Boston Bruins, skated for the first time yesterday, taking to the ice during an optional session at the Stampede Corral.

"It felt all right. Nothing great yet but we've got a ways to go," said the Calgary Flames centre.

"We'll see how it reacts to skating. I'm doing more in the gym, so we'll see how it feels."

Yelle suffered a broken right ankle and ligament damage after sliding feet-first into the boards.

The initial prognosis was he'd be out around eight weeks and yesterday was the five-week mark, meaning he's right on course, maybe even a little ahead of schedule.

"Two or three weeks on the ice, hopefully there's no setbacks," he said.

Defenceman Andrei Zyuzin, who missed last game due to a foot injury suffered after blocking a shot against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday, also skated yesterday. X-rays revealed no broken bones and he could return for tomorrow night's game in Los Angeles.

ONE TIGHT DIVISION:

The five-team Northwest Division is separated by only three points.

It's by far the tightest race in the league and a testament to how well the Flames managed to crawl out from the hole they were in. Remember, at one point the Minnesota Wild were sitting at 9-1, while Edmonton and Vancouver had hot starts.

"We've done so well lately and have been moving up, and Minnesota, at the beginning, was running away with it," said Flames centre Jamie Lundmark. "To be three points back with a game in hand is big for us."

MAKIN' STRIDES:

With his team sitting 10-8-2 one-quarter into the season, head coach Jim Playfair assessed the performance so far as middle of the road.

"It's OK. Just OK," said Playfair, whose team began the year with a 3-7-2 mark before winning seven of eight.

"We've done some good things, as far as establishing ourselves as how we want to play. We've seen some good things with our five-on-five play and some clear areas where we can have huge improvements, specifically our road special teams.

"We've moved along and worked to improve and that's the most important thing."

CALIFORNIA DREAMING:

The mercury is supposed to drop to highs in the minus-25C range this weekend in the Stampede City.

Think the Flames are happy to be heading to Southern California for games this weekend against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks?

Yes, but Playfair said the climate change isn't that important.

"It doesn't matter where you go. You to go to the hotel, you go to the rink, you go back to the hotel. You go back to the rink, you go to the airport, go to the hotel. It really is that way. Anybody who travels with a hockey team will verify that," he said.

"We're flying out (today) and playing Saturday and Sunday, so it doesn't really matter what state we're in.

"It's about what building we're in and we have to find a way to win."


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