SUN Hockey Pool

Regehr's injury scary thought

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The Calgary Flames history without Robyn Regehr in the lineup isn't pretty.

Last season, an injury to the top shutdown defenceman was the beginning of the end for their Stanley Cup dreams.

If Regehr has to miss a substantial amount of time with his latest ailment, which the team won't unveil and kept him off the ice in Monday's 2-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, we'll see whether this year's team is better able to cope.

When Regehr was knocked from action late last season due to a knee injury, which set off the struggles that eventually forced the Flames to skate shorthanded the final few games, they won only two of their final five regular-season games.

Calgary ended up falling from their perch atop the Northwest Division because of that swoon, and lost home-ice advantage.

While Regehr tried to recover from the injury suffered in Dallas, his teammates were bounced by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the opening round.

Amazing how one player set off such a downward spiral.

A few days ago, head coach Brent Sutter said his team was playing the game he envisioned in the summer.

That was a team which attacked with speed on the forecheck and limited mistakes, especially turnovers in all three zones.

Most of all, that was a team capable of shutting down the opposition and keeping the goals-against average among the NHL elite.

Losing Regehr makes that much more difficult, which we may see when they face the Atlanta Thrashers tonight.

He's given the main task of squaring off against opposing big guns, and is helping Dion Phaneuf improve defensively.

It won't be easy as time continues, especially while Cory Sarich is also out of action due to an undisclosed injury.

The first game without the club's most veteran defencemen was good.

They allowed only 16 shots on goal in the loss to the Kings.

But that's one game.

Players such as Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Phaneuf are capable of taking up the slack caused by Regehr's absence.

But the onus to remain a strong defensive team doesn't end at the blueline.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff will need to play even better between the pipes, which will be impressive considering how well he's been all season and taken it up a notch recently.

Plus the forwards must show they deserve the praise Sutter heaped.

Calgary's forwards are much better than the past couple of seasons. Sutter has already shown his mettle as a bench boss by convincing that crew to improve.

Now, they'll have to take it to another level.

Maybe Regehr's absence will be short-lived. He did partake in the morning skate and the pre-game session Monday before bowing out minutes before puck drop.

And since his injury is more likely upper-body soreness as a result of the hit from San Jose's Joe Thornton in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Sharks, it's possible a day or two will be all Regehr needs to return as healthy as possible.

But if Regehr is on the shelf for an extended spell, with knee troubles, the Flames had best prove their coach's words are indeed true.

Playing the way he envisioned is their best chance of withstanding any prolonged absence.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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