Flames welcome back Stajan

Flames forward Matt Stajan was practicing with the team at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 12,...

Flames forward Matt Stajan was practicing with the team at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 12, 2010 and is expected to return as early as Thursday. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:38 PM ET

Finally some good injury news for the Calgary Flames, who really could use more of it.

Centre Matt Stajan, who has been out of action since the first day of the pre-season due to a separated shoulder, was skating on the second line in Tuesday’s practice and appears ready for the next game.

Stajan’s likely return for Thursday’s home clash against the Florida Panthers is nothing but a positive. However, given the nature of his injury, it’s impossible for the team to say for sure if he will play.

“He’s getting very, very close,” said head coach Brent Sutter.

Still, it’s akin to only putting a cup of water in the bucket that obviously has a hole in it. After all, we’re talking about a Flames team which is losing a player or two seemingly every outing.

Counting Stajan, the Flames have just 12 healthy forwards now that Rene Bourque is on the shelf with a suspected concussion.

“It felt strong, and now it’s just getting your skating legs,” Stajan said. “Everybody’s got almost

10 games under their belt, and I’m starting from scratch, so I’m trying to get up to speed as quick as I can. (The shoulder) didn’t give me any issues, and we did some contact and felt fine. That’s the first test.”

The Flames are without a large contingent of forwards (see graphic at left).

Bourque’s injury necessitates that a forward dresses, unless the Flames were to opt for skating the seven defencemen. However, Stajan said it’s not forcing him to play before he’s ready.

“I’ve been pushing to get back since I got hurt, doing everything I can to get it where it needs to be. It’s too bad Bourquie went down — hopefully he’s back soon — but that has no bearing on when

I play. When I’m ready, I’ll be in the lineup,” said the centre who had 19 goals and 57 points last season. “As a player, you want to get back in as soon as you can. I’ll push to get in there. But if something’s not right, we’re not going to push it. If you come back one game early and miss 10, it’s not worth it.”

Stajan will likely line up as a centre, and Brendan Morrison would move to right wing with Niklas Hagman remaining at left wing.

Although he’s been a pivot his whole career, Morrison played more than 20 games on the wing two seasons ago with the Anaheim Ducks.

“Sometimes, when you get the puck on the wing, you get more time with it, and that’s good for a playmaker,” Morrison said. “The biggest thing I noticed is it takes a bit more time to really get into the game unless you’re finishing more checks and getting involved.”

Having Morrison on that line also gives the Flames an option of somebody else to take faceoffs, which is important when you have a player returning from a shoulder injury.

Defenceman Adam Pardy’s dislocated shoulder will also allow one of either Cory Sarich or Steve Staios to see their first action of the season. Both players, who have combine for a US$6.3-million salary-cap hit, were scratched the first two games. Both could dress, with rookie T.J. Brodie getting his feet wet at the pro level and having his share of ups and downs through the first two games.

“The way the bodies have been dropping around here, you have to stay ready,” Sarich said. “It’s day-by-day at the start of the season. A guy wants to play hockey — that’s what I’m here for. As much as I love practising, it’s about being on the ice for games.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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