Let's hope Backlund injury isn't long-term
WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|Mikael Backlund from the Calgary Flames (R) goes up against Alexander Edler from the Vancouver Canucks in NHL hockey action on February 11, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. (STUART DRYDEN/QMI AGENCY)
CALGARY - Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Calgary Flames centre Mikael Backlund was injured in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks at the Saddledome.
How, you ask?
Sticking up for a teammate he feared was, uh, injured.
It’s been that kind of stretch for this bad-luck bunch.
The Flames announced during Saturday’s morning skate that centre Blair Jones had suffered a broken ankle and will be out indefinitely, with Backlund scoring a promotion to the second line in his absence.
That lasted about 10 hours, including only 24:30 of game action.
Early in the second period of Saturday’s spirited Northwest Division showdown, Flames winger Blake Comeau got tangled up with Canucks pest Ryan Kesler along the boards in the neutral zone and was tumbling to the ice when he was bulldozed by burly blueliner Andrew Alberts.
Comeau was a bit woozy and was still on the ice when Backlund confronted Alberts, shoving the big man a couple of times before reluctantly shaking off his gloves and tossing a couple of punches in a short-lived scrap of sorts. Neither was assessed a fighting major.
The crowd roared its approval for a few moments, until many realized Backlund was skating toward the bench — not the penalty box — with his left arm hanging like a limp noodle.
Although Comeau returned to the action, the 22-year-old Swedish centre didn’t. A team spokesman reported he suffered an “upper-body injury.”
Tim Jackman dropped the gloves with Alberts later in the second period, a more appropriate matchup for the Canucks’ 6-foot-5, 218-lb. blueliner. Jackman earned the decision, but the heavy-weight tilt only provided proof Backlund was seriously overmatched, even if he deserves kudos for sticking up for his teammate.
According to stats provided by the team, the Flames have already lost a mind-boggling 243 man games to injury so far this season.
With four full-time forwards — Jones, Curtis Glencross, David Moss and Lee Stempniak — already out, a long-term injury to Backlund would only add to the pain.
OFF THE GLASS
After Saturday’s morning skate, Jarome Iginla remarked that Olli Jokinen’s recent scoring spree is “the best, I think, that he’s played since I’ve played with him.” Iginla and Jokinen don’t have the same history as the Sedin twins, but that’s still a ringing endorsement from the Flames captain, who’s played parts of four seasons with the 33-year-old Finn ... Prior to the game, a video tribute to Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff featured some of the best saves of his career. His third-period robbery of Henrik Sedin ranks right up there ... Note to commissioner Gary Bettman: The scheduling for Hockey Day in Canada would be much more convenient if there were eight NHL squads based on this side of the border. Just saying ... Kesler and fellow rabble-rouser Maxim Lapierre collided in the neutral zone in the first period, much to the delight of the Flames fans in attendance.
IN THE CORNERS
Saturday’s showdown marked the 3,000th career broadcast for Peter Maher, the longtime voice of the Flames on Sportsnet 960 Radio. Man games lost to injury during that span? None. As a special touch, the Flames invited Maher’s daughter, Tricia, to sing the national anthem ... The Flames’ annual Danone SuperSkills competition goes Sunday (11 a.m.) at the Saddledome. With reigning champions Ales Kotalik (hardest shot) and Rene Bourque (shooting accuracy) since traded away and Davis Moss (fastest skater) and Mikael Backlund (puck control) now nursing injuries, there won’t be a single guy with an opportunity to defend a title.
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson