You kidney-ing me?

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

David Hale is looking to make a better first impression when he finally gets the chance to hit the ice for the Calgary Flames.

Acquired at the trade deadline, Hale will practice today with the Flames and hopes to join the lineup soon.

He'd love to have a big impact after missing the last road trip due to a possible bout with a kidney ailment that has affected him for several years.

"Extremely frustrating," said the defenceman. "It's terrible timing. It's the last thing you want to do when you come to a new team, sit out and not really get into the swing of things."

Hale likely won't suit up tonight when the Flames play host to the St. Louis Blues but will practice for just the second time since suffering what's believed a bout with IgA nephropathy, which caused him to return home early from a road trip for testing.

That could pave the way for a debut on the coming road trip to Colorado and Dallas.

"Everything seems to be fine. I'm on the right track and feeling better," he said.

Hale and several other players skated in an optional practice yesterday at the Saddledome.

His problems last week could have stemmed from his ailment, also known as Berger's disease, but it also could be a byproduct of sickness he was feeling before being traded to Calgary by the New Jersey Devils.

Symptoms of Berger's disease are similar to the flu, such as fatigue, nausea and fever.

"My kidneys can be working fine but it can be something where you get the flu and that will trigger it," Hale explained. "And I can have the symptoms for a long time."

Essentially, due to too much protein, his kidneys are unable to filter waste and excess water. There is no cure but it can be kept relatively under control with a proper diet.

"The diet is basically the opposite of what an athlete needs, low protein and low gluten," he said.

Having last played in a game Feb. 25, Hale is getting antsy to join the action.

Currently the Flames are in a tough battle, not only for a playoff spot but a good seeding.

However, defenceman Rhett Warrener said the focus should be on having their game in order over the next four weeks and the results will take care of themselves.

"All the talk of the standings doesn't mean much because I don't think first through eighth there's a lot of discrepancy in talent or the strength of the teams," Warrener said.

"So what difference does it make if you're in sixth or fourth or second.

"It's the team that ramps it up in the playoffs that's the team to beat. You focus on getting first place but you don't throw all your eggs in one basket.

"I personally would rather have a long playoff run than a first-place finish, so first isn't a do-or-die situation.

"If we're not playing well the last five games of the season, then I'll start worrying."

Which, Warrener said, means first concentrating on a better defensive game, especially on the heels of a blown third-period lead Saturday night against Tampa Bay.

"The natural talent we have will score us enough goals," he said.

"We've got to realize if we buckle down and play strong defence, concentrate on shutting teams down, our ability and god-given talent with the forwards we have and defence we have will score enough goals to win games."


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