Iggy finally 'fesses up

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Surrounded by hundreds of school kids taking part in the kickoff to the Calgary Flames' annual child literacy campaign, Jarome Iginla finally admitted he'll have more time to read this month than he initially let on.

Reluctant to come clean on the initial diagnosis of the sprained MCL in his left knee two weeks ago, the captain said yesterday what most already figured: He's out for at least a month.

"Four to five weeks is what (the doctors) are saying," said Iginla, whose knee was injured when pinned awkwardly against the boards Jan. 4. "I'm hoping for three weeks and it'll be three weeks after the all-star break but that'd be optimistic."

And completely unrealistic. He hasn't even bent his leg since being fitted for a brace following a hit by Florida's Bryan Allen.

"It's stiff," said Iginla, who will have the knee examined by doctors again today.

"I'm hoping as soon as I'm allowed to move it, it will feel better. The next step is riding a bike and then skating."

The good news is he's able to lift weights and work on some cardio, which should help speed up his return once he feels stable on skates.

But that could be a while yet.

The reality is, there's little chance the Flames will let their franchise player hit the ice before month's end, especially considering the club was playing well without him until recently.

"Anytime you are watching games and not playing, it sucks," said Iginla. "But seeing the guys rattle off four wins in a row and seeing different guys have great nights ... has been good."

Iginla originally downplayed the severity of the injury, saying only it would be "at least a week."

However, his sombre tone suggested it would be much longer that that -- something the club tried hard to shield from the media and fans. A strange move considering the support both have given the club for years.

"I knew it would be (longer than initially let on) but you hate to admit it," said Iginla, who only missed one game earlier in his career when he suffered an MCL sprain.

"They tell you it's worse, and you believe them, you just don't like to say, 'Oh, it's going to be a month.' "

Jim Playfair suggested then the team didn't want to set a return date for fear of how expectations would affect the team and Iginla.

Interesting. Well, now we know the truth. We think.

And Iginla seems to be coping well with his fate.

"The days between games are fine," smiled Iginla.

"Missing practice isn't the end of the world. But the games are harder. You're watching and encouraging guys. It gives you a little bit different perspective ... but I don't want to miss too many more."

While heroic efforts from Kristian Huselius, Byron Ritchie, Matthew Lombardi and Daymond Langkow helped the club win four straight after his injury, the team has since lost the last two on the road and face Anaheim at home tonight (7 p.m. Sportsnet).

And all Iginla can do is watch and read about it.


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