SUN Hockey Pool

Injury ends healthy Flames run

Flames forward Brendan Morrison suffered a knee injury against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night....

Flames forward Brendan Morrison suffered a knee injury against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

Donít expect too many opponents to feel sorry for the Calgary Flames now that they have lost their first-line centre.

The NHL regular-season is generally a war of attrition, and the Flames have won more than they have lost in that area this season.

One of the most puzzling things about the Flamesí struggles during the first half was that they couldnít use injuries as a crutch.

Now they head down the playoff stretch with one of their most surprising players out, or at least battling the injury bug if he does play.

In Wednesdayís 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, first-line centre Brendan Morrison suffered a knee injury. The first-year Flame was headed for an MRI, but the team took a recovery day Thursday and there is no official update.

Regardless, there will be a lineup shuffle Friday night when the Flames host the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Saddledome.

Itís expected rookie Mikael Backlund will take on a bigger role, possibly moving between veterans Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the top line.

Luckily (or was it foresight?), interim GM Jay Feaster added another forward at the trade deadline, and after two games of being a scratch, veteran Fredrik Modin should make his debut against the Blue Jackets ó one of his former teams.

However it shakes down, there will be a dropoff from Morrison, who was an addition just before the season started as an insurance policy.

The former Canucks star couldnít catch on during a tryout contract with Vancouver and was released. He came to Calgary with low expectations, but in 66 games this season, the 35-year-old from Pitt Meadows, B.C., has nine goals and 34 assists.

Heís developed a chemistry with captain Iginla, who is two goals away from a 10th straight 30-goal season.

Morrisonís injury is the first major one the Flames have dealt with that happened during this season.

Although they played the entire campaign minus centre Daymond Langkow, his neck injury was suffered late last year and the team went through the off-season knowing his contribution in 2010-11 would be minimal.

Along with Iginla and winger Tim Jackman, defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano, plus goalies Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson, Morrison has suited up for every single Flames contest this season.

Plenty of other players have gone through injury-free but were victims of being scratched, as the Flames had a surplus of NHLers ready to go.

Most of the teams fighting with the Flames havenít had the same luck.

On Feb. 16, the Flames beat the Dallas Stars 4-2 as the latter team skated without star Brad Richards.

The Colorado Avalanche fell out of the playoff race after being decimated with injuries, most notably to since-traded star Chris Stewart.

The Anaheim Ducks have had to survive without top goalie Jonas Hiller, who has played one game since Feb. 2, while top centre Ryan Getzlaf just returned after missing 14 games.

The Chicago Blackhawks had a three-week stretch where star winger Patrick Kane couldnít go, while the Minnesota Wild have hung around without captain Mikko Koivu the past six games.

All of those players make a bigger impact to their team than Morrison does to his, but that doesnít mean itís any easier to replace the top-line centre.

Two years ago, a rash of injuries down the stretch ended up costing them a division title, and they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

So the next few weeks will determine if the Flames can handle this adversity.


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