SUN Hockey Pool

Wrecked Warrener

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

DENVER -- It shouldn't be news to anyone that Rhett Warrener has been playing hurt.

When he was left behind for the Calgary Flames' current road trip, assistant coach Rich Preston joked he was suffering from a "total body injury" -- a truthful substitute for the upper and lower-body announcements common at this time of year.

The rugged rearguard has missed chunks of this season with leg injuries, a knee ailment and upper-body troubles listed as 'arm' but believed to be shoulder problems.

He hopes that trend will come to an end but an even more disturbing tendency regarding his play is foremost on his mind.

Warrener has been a minus player in seven of his past 15 games, the only positive performance a plus-2 showing in the OT loss to Tampa last weekend.

But Warrener won't use pain as an excuse for performance.

"I don't think you can mix the two together and say, well, because you've got some bumps your plus/minus is going to go down," Warrener said Tuesday at the Saddledome, giving no indication he'd be remaining in town. "Maybe it does but it shouldn't."

Told of his numbers through February and early March, Warrener admits the rating is something he wants to improve on.

"That is the only stat I really look at because I'm not going to get a lot of scoring stats," he said. "Sometimes that's how it goes. I was minus to start the year, too, and battled back. It has ups and downs, it's definitely something I concentrate on.

"Hopefully it doesn't continue in that trend."

With Warrener on the shelf -- he may have agitated that shoulder injury in a fight with Blues forward Jamal Mayers Monday -- newcomer David Hale was given his first start as a Flame Wednesday night.

But head coach Jim Playfair has said he needs his veteran warrior Warrener for the stretch and playoffs.

The bench boss has recently been giving Warrener more time off the ice to stay fresh and get healthy.

"This is the time of the year when he's a really effective player for us so we expect his minutes to go up. Therefore, you've got to balance it out," said Playfair, who sat Warrener in Nashville and kept him out of the morning skate Monday before the Flames beat St. Louis at the 'Dome. "When you've got a player that's been to the Stanley Cup final three years, three different times and three different teams, he clearly understands the importance of this time of year."


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