SUN Hockey Pool

It might be a long 'tweak' for Flames

ERIC FRANCIS, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

CALGARY -- It was with a sombre tone and a painful limp Jarome Iginla showed up at the Saddledome yesterday to deliver news of an MCL tear in his left knee.

Yet despite hinting his return date would be much longer than a week away when he'll be re-evaluated, Iginla then unknowingly demonstrated the type of healing powers he possesses.

After patiently answering questions following a long, uncomfortable morning of prodding by team doctors, the 29-year-old Flames captain took time to sign autographs for a handful of fans before heading home to recoup. When it came time to pose for a photo with a youngster in a wheelchair, Iginla's legendary class saw him trying his darnedest to bend his braced knee so he could be at eye level with the beaming boy. Trying several stances that produced nothing but discomfort, he eventually settled on an awkward pose that allowed him to put on a brave smile despite the pain.

"They just told me a week and they'll re-evaluate it," said Iginla as part of the organization's concerted effort to leave his targeted return date as vague as possible.

"It doesn't feel great today, but that's what I'm told. I don't know if that means I'll be back in a week or what."

It doesn't.

More likely closer to three or four.

LEAGUE'S HOTTEST PLAYER

After all, the organization knows the importance of having a healthy Iginla in the lineup for the final few months of the club's regular season. No one is going to rush the league's hottest player back, nor would Iginla do so and risk further damage to his knee. As finely tuned an athlete as there is in hockey Iginla knows his body's capabilities and limits, which is why he was the one who pulled himself out of Tuesday night's game.

"I realized it didn't feel exactly right but you never know," said Iginla, who felt his knee "tweak" after being hit along the boards by Florida's Bryan Allen midway through the night, prompting them to fight.

"A lot of times you get hit and you shake it off, but after sitting in the (penalty) box for awhile it didn't feel quite right so I came to the bench and had it looked at."

Even if he's given a perfectly clean bill of health next week he'd need close to a week of skating and strengthening to get him back on the ice risk free. That's not going to happen and Iginla's tone suggested he knows it. The organization is simply trying to cushion the blow and give Iginla carte blanche to return only when he feels ready - not when everyone expects him to.

"The danger comes in putting up a hard return date for an athlete because it's psychological - they figure 'if someone told me I'll be ready then, I guess I'll be ready then' - there's no upside there," reasoned coach Jim Playfair.

"The advantage of not really stabbing a hard return date on him is maybe we get him back early."

And maybe they won't. Smart money is on the latter.


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