Mac (under) the knife

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:17 PM ET


 As he walked into the Flames dressing room after yesterday's morning skate, Dean McAmmond was heartily greeted by his teammates.

 That's only one reason he was in good spirits.

 The other was being pain free.

 McAmmond, whose season was ended in mid-March by a herniated disc in his back, is on the road to recovery.

 It'll be a long road but at least he's found the on-ramp.

 "It's like having a toothache, an abscessed tooth or something where the nerve is hurting and the pain is unbearable," he said. "Think about what it's like when someone pulls the tooth."

 Except recovery from his condition takes a lot longer than a painful tooth.

 McAmmond, who's been bothered by a bad back for years and needed surgery a few seasons ago, spent three months playing through excruciating pain.

 His problem returned during a Dec. 16 outing in Philadelphia, where he potted the game-winning overtime goal.

 The disc was touching a nerve and treatment couldn't alleviate the problem.

 "The disc was adhered right to the nerve," he said. "Anything that would happen just made it worse. It wouldn't recede. It was just stuck to it and the doctor said that it likely wouldn't have gone back."

 He tried playing through the pain and was a real unsung hero playing out of position at centre due to the litany of injuries that beset Craig Conroy, Stephane Yelle, Steve Reinprecht and Blair Betts.

 However, after it became too much to bear, the decision was made for McAmmond to shut it down, with hope he'd be able to skate in the playoffs.

 They waited a month to see if there was enough progress for him to return to action but there was no change and arthroscopic surgery was performed April 23rd.

 Doctors separated the nerve from the disc and removed disc fragments.

 "In about eight to 10 weeks, I should be back skating and getting back in shape. I'm gonna have a lot of work ahead of me but I'm not afraid of work," he said.

 What impact the injury will have on his career remains to be seen.

 McAmmond is due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and his recent history of injury may affect his opportunities.

 However, the speedy forward who potted 17 goals and 30 points in 64 games, is optimistic he'll stay in Calgary after having been uprooted on a seemingly annual basis for the past few years.

 "Hopefully, we can stay here," he said.

 Until then, he'll concentrate on recovering and cheering on his teammates. Although he'd rather be on the ice in the playoffs, McAmmond is ecstatic to see what they're doing -- even if it is without him.

 "I couldn't be more proud of the guys, I really couldn't," he said. "This whole year, when we were trying to get into the playoffs, I knew the team could play exactly the way it's playing right now.

 "When I was playing, I knew this team could do what it's doing right now."


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