SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' injuries adding up

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Despite all the precautions they took this season to avoid a limp to the finish, injuries have hobbled the Calgary Flames once again.

Flying back from St. Paul a day later than his teammates, Daymond Langkow sported an uncomfortable looking neck brace.

Facing more tests upon his arrival home, his status is uncertain with just 10 games remaining on the schedule — every one of them critical.

Filling his spot with substance at the most crucial stretch of the season won’t be easy, and no one knows how long the gritty centre will be out after Tuesday’s clash against the Anaheim Ducks.

“I’m fine,” Langkow said cordially at the Minnesota-St. Paul airport, politely declining any real interviews.

“It doesn’t hurt, as long as I keep it straight.”

Preferring to browse a couple of magazines and sit quietly beside Flames trainer Schad Richea than talk in too much detail about his accident, Langkow waited patiently for more than an hour to hop aboard his commercial flight — he did get to travel first class for his trouble.

Met by his wife at the Calgary International Airport, he scooted out quickly.

Langkow suggested he’ll be at the Saddledome soon to talk to the media formally. The chatter, for now, turns to who takes his place.

At this point, the reserves are empty.

Brian McGrattan is the last healthy member of a 15-forward group kept around after the trade deadline. Nigel Dawes and Mikael Backlund were called into duty when Christopher Higgins and Curtis Glencross went down.

Tough guys become non-factors down the stretch and into the playoffs, which is why McGrattan has sat out 17 straight games since

Jan. 30. He’s a serviceable skater and won’t harm the Flames. But he can’t help the way Langkow does when healthy.

Calling someone up from the farm is an option, but Brett Sutter or Jason Jaffray aren’t names you want to hear on the play-by-play when the NHL playoffs are on the line and you’re behind in the race.

Missing Jamie Lundmark is now OK for every fan to admit, not just the women who thought he was cute.

The Flames are hurting — and so are their playoff hopes.

The team they’re chasing, the Detroit Red Wings, battled big injuries all season and is now getting healthy.

Better to be injury-free now with everything on the line. And the missing Flames leave big holes in the lineup.

Higgins had scored his first two goals as a Flame before injuring his leg.

Glencross was finding his groove on a hot fourth line with Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers.

Langkow hasn’t been his best all season, but he’s a warrior who’s experience can only help a team at this time of year.

Right now it looks like he’ll be a rallying cry — inspiration or motivation at best — for the near future.

Even Mayers was wrapped in tensor bandages and ice packs following Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. He took a nasty check from Guillaume Latendresse in the third period and rammed his right shoulder against the unforgiving glass.

It was a tough afternoon for the team.

Never was that more obvious than when Langkow was taken off the ice on a stretcher in the second period after being smacked in the back of the neck by a slapshot off the stick of teammate Ian White.

Ducking instinctively after being jammed by Wild defenceman Greg Zanon and stumbling toward the ice, Langkow avoided being hit in the face by a frozen puck.

“Ducking was probably the worst thing I could have done,” Langkow said after an extra night in the St. Paul Hotel.

The hit was an everyday example of uncalled interference that wouldn’t have been noticed if not for the unfortunate result.

Unfortunately for the Flames, it might have been the bump in an already treacherous road to the playoffs that sends them spinning into the ditch.


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