SUN Hockey Pool

Phew, Dion is OK

Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf will be good to go tonight against the Canucks. (SUN MEDIA/Darren...

Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf will be good to go tonight against the Canucks. (SUN MEDIA/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Dion Phaneuf came out of the Calgary Flames dressing room with nothing but his trademark strut.

No limp. No bandages. No long pants to hide his legs.

The third-year defenceman missed his second straight practice yesterday, but rode the bike and worked out in the gym before telling the few still waiting in the hallway he was good to go tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.

"Definitely. The X-rays came back negative, so that's positive," said Phaneuf, whose unspecified leg injury was painful enough to require further examination but likely won't cause him to miss a game barring a setback at today's morning skate.

"The X-rays were precautionary, just wanted to make sure everything's OK."

Head coach Mike Keenan is confident his minute-eating blueliner will be ready for the Northwest Division battle at the Saddledome.

"I think that he'll be prepared to play. He feels that he's ready," said Keenan. "Actually, he wanted to go out today and the medical team suggested he take another day."

Phaneuf's statistics over the past five games have taken a nosedive. He's a minus-2 with no points over that time after starting the year with three goals, six helpers and a plus-9 rating through the first 10 games.

While his personal slump falls in line with the team's disappointing recent performance, some wondered whether the injury was hurting Phaneuf's play.

"No, it doesn't affect my play. You've got to play through bumps and bruises during the year. That's just what this is," he said.

"Sometimes the puck goes in, sometimes the puck doesn't go in.

"That's part of the game for everyone around the league. First and foremost, I've got to keep the puck out of our net."

With Rhett Warrener's expected return to the lineup after a bout with strep throat, the Flames blueline is back to full strength. The same can't be said about the Canucks.

Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo, two of the team's top four rearguards, are out of the lineup. Lukas Krajicek is, too, leaving veterans Mattias Ohlund, Aaron Miller and Willie Mitchell responsible for the quick tutelage of youngsters like Alex Edler and Luc Bourdon, who played his first game of the season Saturday in a win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Journeyman Mike Weaver stepped up his game in the morale-boosting win, proving the Canucks are still a dangerous team.

After all, they did Saturday what the Flames were unable to do Monday night: Avoid a three-game losing streak with a win over the Avs in Denver.

"Shoes are definitely fillable," said Flames veteran defenceman Adrian Aucoin.

"A lot of times when you have that many defencemen out, it's the forwards who have to pick it up and work a little harder. Good things happen when that happens."

Warrener knows it won't be easy, but hopes the Flames can use the missing cogs on the other side to their benefit.

"With the injuries they have, you try and take advantage and play in their end as much as you can," said Warrener.

"They always play well against us. Even with the injuries, they've still got a pretty skilled team.

"I think they probably started slower than they would have liked, but they're still right there in the thick of things. They know they've got to win, so they're desperate. We've got to be more desperate."


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