Time for Flames' heroes to step up

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Over most of the past two seasons, the Calgary Flames have been fortunate when it comes to injuries.

They haven't gone through a wave like we've seen this season in Colorado (Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny) and Dallas (Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov and Brad Richards), in which at least a couple of key players have been sidelined.

Until now.

With Rene Bourque probably out of action a couple of months due to a high ankle sprain and Daymond Langkow out because of a bruised hand -- the team is insisting it's not broken and he'll be day-to-day -- the Flames are finally facing the kind of adversity to provide a real mettle test.

One that will require everybody from top to bottom to prove something.

Everybody.

Losing Bourque possibly to the end of the regular season and Langkow, even if it's only for a few more games although he's a no-go tonight in Edmonton, is a big hit.

We're talking about a couple of critical pieces to the team's secondary scoring. Bourque's 21 goals to this point is much more than anybody could have expected, and Langkow, even in an off-year, is a major part of the puzzle.

That means plenty of slack to go around.

For starters, the Flames need some primary scoring to step forward, specifically Jarome Iginla.

Iginla's 21 goals so far this season can be somewhat offset by his assist totals -- 40 to this point -- but he is first and foremost a sniper who's shot too many blanks. (How many golden chances hasn't he buried this week alone? A crossbar Thursday in Minny, for example.)

Signs are there the captain is about to break out of his scoring funk. He doesn't have to go on a tear with something like 20 goals in 20 games -- as nice as that would be -- but does need to produce on a regular basis.

Iginla isn't the only top-tier player who needs to light more lamps. Dion Phaneuf has the talent and shot to pump in 20 goals a season, but is nowhere near that pace.

Then the onus then falls on the supporting cast.

David Moss has cooled since reaching the 15-goal mark (one tally in a dozen games), Craig Conroy hasn't scored in 15 games, while Dustin Boyd and Curtis Glencross must provide at least something akin to what they've done over the past half-dozen outings or so.

Earlier this month, Flames GM Darryl Sutter made a point about his team's culture of resiliency and brought up how his team fared while Jarome Iginla was out for a month in the middle of the 2006-07 season. The Flames compiled a 7-2-2 record, while players like Byron Ritchie, Boyd and even Jeff Friesen were among those who took turns playing hero.

It's a script the Flames would do well following again.

Speaking of Sutter, the head honcho may have to step forward and do what he can.

He believes his team to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and so far, the players have proven that assertion to appear correct. This would be a good time to go out and make that deal for a proven top-six forward who can carry a share of the offensive burden.

The names out there are many, but maybe the most interesting would be Alex Kovalev in Montreal.

Kovalev returned to the team yesterday from his banishment -- the Habs lost both games while he was at home -- but has reportedly been on the block for months.

Former teammates have said repeatedly Kovalev is not a negative influence in the dressing room, and Calgary would be a great fit.

His talent could be used on the powerplay and in a top-two line role, and being a pending unrestricted free agent, wouldn't be a salary cap burden beyond the season.

Plus, in Calgary, he'd have the benefit of being a supremely skilled player in a secondary role, which appears to be the perfect scenario for him. It sure was back in 1994 in New York when Mike Keenan was head coach of the Rangers.

You can bet the players currently on the Flames will do what they can during these rough times. The organization would be well served to come through with a big addition, too.


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