ST. LOUIS — Barret Jackman said earlier in the day there’d be no free pass for Daymond Langkow.
He wasn’t kidding.
The St. Louis Blues defenceman gave the Flames centre returning from a layoff of more than a year a less than friendly welcome, smacking him toward the boards from behind in the second period and taking a cross-checking penalty in the process.
People who know Langkow’s story were holding their collective breath hoping he wasn’t hurt — the 34-year-old was playing his first game in more than a calendar year after fracturing a vertebrae at the base of his neck last March.
“That’s hockey. It’s gonna happen,” Langkow said with a shrug after earning an assist and a plus-2 rating during 14:56 of ice time in his debut, landing on the top line with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla for much of the second and third periods. “I’ve been crosschecked many times before and it’s not the first and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
“Not sure what he was thinking there.”
Jackman probably wasn’t thinking. He’d said earlier Langkow would be just another player out there.
“You can’t give him the olé and let him go down and score on you,” the Blues defenceman said after the morning skate. “We’re happy for him, but it’s not a free pass out there.”
Langkow didn’t expect anything less, but he wasn’t worried about the physical stuff coming in.
“I was more worried about positional play, trying to get timing back and things like that,” Langkow said, admitting he had jitters coming in.
“I was pretty anxious all day. Really nervous before the game. Just a weird feeling, waiting to get out there.”
Iginla was impressed at the result.
“It was great to have him back,” said the captain.
“To be honest, I was surprised at how good he was already. Literally, you would not think he’s been out even two weeks or a month or whatever.
“Even if he was rusty, it was a big boost for all of us just to see him back, because we never knew when or if for sure he was going to be back.”
Asked how he felt about his own performance, Langkow reminded everyone just how even-keeled he is as a player. Little emotion showed.
“I didn’t have the greatest first shift, kind of wandered a little bit, but I felt more comfortable as the game went on,” he said.
“We won, that’s number one.
“I just felt confident and I wanted to get in a game. I felt I could play. I was kind of up and down. I had some giveaways and had some takeaways. At the end, playing with Iggy and Tangs made it pretty easy for me. All in all, it was good.
“I just wanted to get in a game and get through it.”