Don't worry about Iginla — yet

Flames captain Jarome Iginla skates during fitness testing at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary,...

Flames captain Jarome Iginla skates during fitness testing at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Sep. 16, 2011. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:07 AM ET

CALGARY - Six days into camp and still no Jarome Iginla.

Fifteen days until the puck drops to open the season, and the Flames are still without their captain.

From the moment No. 12 left the opening practice of this year’s camp with back spasms, the club has downplayed the injury.

Yet, what team officials and Iginla suggested was likely a minor, day-to-day ailment has now stretched into almost a full week.

And still there’s no timeline for a return.

So, given his importance to the franchise and any chance the team has of breaking the string of two straight playoff-less seasons, the obvious question is this: When do fans start to worry?

“Don’t,” was coach Brent Sutter’s advice.

“At this point in time, there’s nothing to worry about. He has some back spasms and a bit of muscle issues, and it got aggravated in practice the other day and just needs to settle down. That happens.”

Spotted walking around the dressing room area yesterday, Iginla chose once again not to address the media. After all, how many times should a guy have to repeat he’s fine and simply taking things day by day?

Thing is, with every passing day, speculation – make that concern – grows that perhaps there’s more to the injury than previously thought or that the club is letting on.

Even if Iginla does return to the ice well before the pre-season ends, will this be a recurring injury throughout the season?

Is his age or his rugged style catching up to the 34-year-old?

Will he lose a half step or have to alter his game?

OK, everyone, just slow down.

A quick reminder that last year, many worried about all the above after a relatively slow start for the captain, prompting a bounce back that saw him score 43 goals and 86 points while reasserting himself as one of the league’s premier forwards.

Indeed, it’s a little early to start sounding the alarm bells as the team does exactly what it should: Take every precaution to ensure the club’s backbone doesn’t become back-prone.

“I don’t want him on the ice until he’s 100%,” Sutter said of the most valuable and most popular player in franchise history.

“He’s getting close, but there’s no need for him to be out there aggravating anything. We need him to be obviously ready at the start of the season. We’ll see where he’s at the next couple days, and if he can get on the ice, he will. If not, we’ll give it another day.”

And maybe – just maybe – he’ll miss yet another after that, slowly generating more concern in Cowtown than the price of oil.

“It’s not structural or anything to worry about,” said Sutter.

“Each day, he’s getting better. He’s really close. If we were playing today or the regular season was starting next week, he’d be playing, but he wouldn’t be 100%, so why would we be playing him? We need everyone to have a good start to the year, and we want to be a consistent team from the get-go. He’ll be a big part of that.”

And if he isn’t? Well, that’s a question for another day.

“I don’t think I’m being overly cautious about it. I think I’m being smart,” Sutter said of a gameplan no one would argue with given Iginla’s durability and legendary fitness levels.

“What he has is what we all got when we played. I had what he got. It’s just some muscles that flare up. It’s not like it’s unknown. You treat it the right way, and you’re fine – just don’t aggravate it.”

Alrighty then — nothing to worry about.

Yet.


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