SUN Hockey Pool

Flames d-man a no-show in Edmonton

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Call it the curious case of Dion Phaneuf.

Instead of celebrating his 24th birthday at Rexall Place, the Calgary Flames defenceman was in parts unknown as his teammates tried to take a step closer to the Northwest Division title in their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place last night.

Seeing as head coach Mike Keenan took offense Thursday to the suggestion his blueliner was injured after missing practice in Calgary, it might come across as a little odd to some that Phaneuf was absent.

From the game and apparently from the city.

But Keenan's flip-flop on Phaneuf's status -- first with a Freudian slip saying he was day-to-day, then expressing surprise when someone asked about his injury and dubbing it "maintenance" -- wasn't the weirdest part of the story that unfolded further yesterday.

It started with a tidbit on a morning radio show that suggested Phaneuf recently visited the state of Minnesota, where the well-known Mayo Clinic is housed.

The Flames had nothing more to say on Phaneuf's status.

No information was available from his agent, either.

A dozen or so calls to the many numbers for the wide-ranging medical centre listed in the Yellow Pages provided nothing.

Nobody by the name of Phaneuf listed there.

With no knowledge of any Ron Mexico-type aliases Phaneuf may have borrowed from former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, the search turned to the pavement.

Scrambling to find out if the defenceman made the trip to Edmonton, a couple of Calgary scribes started a stakeout.

In the NHL, around this time of year, it's the only way to gather any information as far as injuries are concerned.

Player-by-player, the team bus filled outside its Edmonton Hotel.

Imitations of the energetic young blueliner were seen but no appearance from the Stone-Faced One himself.

"What are you doing out here?" asked one player.

"Stakeout," replied the reporter.

"Head count?" the player suggested before doing his best impression, which was nowhere near as accurate as those performed by Andre Roy in the past.

"Let's go boys. Energy!" he said in a high-pitched voice before turning to the scribe.

"Do I sound like him?" he finished before walking away without waiting for an answer.

Answers were tough to come by.

The digging did unearth some new information.

Staying behind after the Flames' game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Saddledome Monday, Phaneuf joined his teammates on the road in Vancouver for the next evening's game -- a potential clincher for the division crown that fell short in a 4-1 loss.

Phaneuf suited up for more than 30 minutes despite whatever ailment had been nagging him.

Rumblings of a wrist injury surfaced earlier in the season, but those watching the last couple of games are led to believe it's a lower-body problem that kept him out of last night's tilt for which the Flames dressed just 15 skaters, thanks to the latest injury victim, Curtis Glencross.

One scout who took in Tuesday's Canucks game said he thought Phaneuf was "missing his first step."

Sticking with silence, the Flames would only say Phaneuf was day-to-day.

Not even the traditional and vague 'upper-' or 'lower-body' tag was offered.

Neither were his whereabouts. At this point, nothing would surprise us. Not even if Phaneuf returned to the lineup younger than when he left.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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