SUN Hockey Pool

Langkow may play Friday

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:45 PM ET

On Thursday afternoon, sports fans in St. Louis flocked to Busch Stadium to see their beloved Cardinals in action on Opening Day.

On Friday, about two miles down the road at Scottrade Center, it will be opening night for Calgary Flames centre Daymond Langkow.

With the Flames all-but-mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Conference, the 34-year-old pivot has been removed from the long-term injured list and is expected to make his first appearance in more than a year.

Langkow's return from a career-threatening neck injury is a feel-good story at the tail-end of what's become another sad tale for the Flames, who will miss the post-season dance for a second consecutive spring.

It's also comes as a somewhat surprising storyline, especially after the team issued a statement Wednesday saying there wouldn't be any additional updates on Langkow until he was game-ready.

“In as much as Daymond has not played in an NHL game in more than a full-calendar year, there remains issues relative to getting him ready to return to the line-up such as conditioning, rebuilding muscle mass, readiness for game speed and game timing, etc.,” said acting GM Jay Feaster in Wednesday's statement.

“At such point in time when the coaching staff determines that Daymond is ready to return to the line-up, we will make the necessary roster transaction(s) to activate Daymond.”

Turns out, the move was made Thursday, with enigmatic winger Ales Kotalik reassigned to AHL Abbotsford.

Kotalik's demotion creates enough salary-cap space to add Langkow to active roster. And unless another skater is summoned from the farm, the Flames will have just a dozen forwards available for Friday's contest, meaning the grizzled veteran will be in the lineup.

Langkow has been sidelined since suffering a freak injury March 21, 2010, in Minnesota, when he was struck by a slapshot on the back of the neck while tumbling toward the ice. He was carted off the ice on a stretcher, hospitalized overnight and diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae at the base of his neck.

Langkow was cleared for full contact a couple of weeks ago and has been practising with team on a daily basis. He even accompanied the team of a four-game road trip to California and Edmonton, prompting speculation he might be able to help the Flames climb back into the Western Conference's elite eight.

Those playoff hopes are essentially shot, but Langkow will still get an opportunity to prove he's healthy.

A week ago, after being asked if he could get up to speed before the season ends, Langkow replied: “I can't answer that until I get the opportunity to play, so until that happens, we'll have to see.”

On Friday, we'll get an answer.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WesGilbertson


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