Tough to tell who's tops

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:42 PM ET


 Much has been made about the Calgary Flames' mental toughness in the 2004 NHL playoffs.

 They've rebounded time and again in Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4, never letting a loss stand in the way of their Stanley Cup dreams.

 But there's another side of toughness to the Western Conference champions.

 The physical one.

 And it seems these days it's heightened in each and every member of the Flames, although choosing which player's pain threshold is highest is a difficult task.

 "I don't know," said Flames right-winger Shean Donovan, scouring the dressing room for potential toughest-man candidates.

 "This year, we've had a lot of guys who've battled through a lot of things. We've been pretty lucky."

 Or just darn resilient.

 "Who's the toughest guy on the team?" queried teammate Steve Montador.

 "There are a lot of guys --Martin Gelinas, Stephane Yelle, Andy Ference, Chris Clark, Marcus Nilson and, oh man, Iggy (Jarome Iginla).

 "But the first guy who comes to mind is Gelly."

 Indeed, Gelinas looked like a train wreck in the wake of Game 4.

 A 10-stitch gash across his left cheek was the result of taking a deflected puck in the face during second-period action Monday night.

 And who knows about his hidden injuries? Also in Game 4, Gelinas took two first-shift cross-checks to the back, sending him to the bench favouring the left side of his body.

 Then in the second period, he was sent sliding feet-first into the boards when knocked askew by Vincent Lecavalier's stick.

 Yet, the playoff warhorse kept coming back for more.

 "Never a doubt that he's not going to get up," Montador said. "Some guys wouldn't get up in his situation. But I think that's what's helped him play 1,000 games in this league. He gets up and comes back."

 Does any Flames player do that better than Yelle, though?

 The two-time Stanley Cup champion blocks more shots than most goaltenders yet he doesn't miss a beat.

 And in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, Yelle returned despite being drilled by Cory Sarich on a clean open-ice hit that might've knocked lesser men out of the lineup.

 "He's a warrior, an old-school guy," Donovan said. "He's the type of guy who's taped up all over and he's like that all season. He's just one of those gritty guys who gets his nose dirty. It's not easy but he plays that way and that's the way he makes his living."

 Just like Nilson, another of the warriors leading the Flames in this final series.

 In fact, it's believed he's playing through a concussion after Cory Stillman's elbow took his head hard into the glass in Game 1.

 Certainly, his reputation as an NHL ironman -- having missed just four games in the last four seasons -- is proof of Nilson's pain threshold.

 "And he plays hard," said Donovan, opting to give his linemate the nod as the Flames' toughest player.

 "Marcus is like Yeller. Those guys who block shots, hit and do all that kind of stuff, that takes a toll on your body.

 "And they do it every night and they don't get hurt too often."

 But like Gelinas says, it's all for a worthwhile cause.

 Lord Stanley's mug, of course.

 "You do what you can," Gelinas added.

 "You see an opportunity like this and it doesn't happen very often."


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