SUN Hockey Pool

Langkow won't be rushed

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:26 PM ET

Daymond Langkow came down the wing and took aim.

With a quick flick of the wrists, the Calgary Flames centre drilled a top-shelf offering past goaltender Henrik Karlsson.

Immediately, all the other players on the ice taking part in Thursday’s morning skate roared with delight.

It was a great sign the Flames veteran, who’s been out of action since being hit in the back of the neck nearly one year ago and suffering a broken vertebra, is that much closer to a return to action.

And you can bet the trio of minds watching the optional skate, acting GM Jay Feaster, special assistant Craig Conroy and head coach Brent Sutter, saw it, too.

But as much as they’d love to have the 1,013-game, 641-point player back into the lineup, they all know they’ll have to wait.

As much as the Flames organization is thrilled Langkow appears on track for a return to action — especially since it appeared his career could be over — there’s no way they’d even consider putting a Flaming C on Langkow’s chest and putting him into action until he’s completely ready.

That’s even with a collection of players out of the lineup due to injury, including centres Brendan Morrison and David Moss.

“It’s wonderful just to see him out there right now, but he’s hasn’t played hockey in a year,” Feaster cautioned. “He’s lost muscle mass and he has to get that back. Then he has to practice and get his timing back.

“Otherwise, you’re going to put a guy out there in a situation where he’ll get hurt again.”

Langkow last played March 21, 2010 in Minnesota. He was in front of the opposition net trying to set a screen when he was shoved from behind. As he fell forward, Langkow saw the puck shot by Ian White coming toward him and tucked his chin to his chest in reaction. The puck hit him in the spine.

He’s twice tried to return this season, but been forced to stop all physical activity due to recurring symptoms, which included tingling in his extremities.

Langkow began skating on his own and improved to the point he was allowed to practise fully with his teammates Wednesday. In fact, he took part in physical drills.

It’s the latest step in his return, a process which even included going through all the phases of testing players go through at the start of the season.

It was as much to see where he is today as it was to see how he fared prior to last season.

A return, be it this season or next season, won’t happen until he is medically fit to the standards necessary.

“We’ve established certain criteria, in terms of testing, that he has to hit before we’d put him out there,” Feaster said. “We’re pleasantly surprised where he is on some of the testing, but he’s not where he needs to be.”

And if you’re thinking it’s a case of not being able to handle putting Langkow’s US$4.5 million salary back on the roster, guess again. The Flames have a cushion against the salary cap and a plan.

“From a salary cap standpoint, we have a strategy in place and are ready to deal with that,” Feaster said.

Which means it’s a matter of when Langkow can play when he’s healthy enough.

Although that’s also if he’s healthy.

“It’s close,” Feaster said. “It’s one of the reasons we established those measurements as opposed to ‘Well, he looks good and says he’s good.’ There are things that need to be done and then we’ll decide.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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