Warrener appears OK for return to ice

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:33 PM ET


 Dion Phaneuf is not yet signed and delivered to the Calgary Flames. Brennan Evans may not yet be ready for NHL prime time.

 No matter, because all signs encouraged a return by Rhett Warrener for Game 3 of the second-round playoff series at the Saddledome tomorrow.

 The workhorse defenceman himself made a positive appearance yesterday morning at the 'Dome, flexing his muscles and joking around while he was hounded for information on his health after being clipped in the right eye by the stick of Steve Yzerman in Game 2. It's believed he saw team doctors and the eye is still sore and sensitive to light.

 But in usual Warrener playoff form, the veteran -- sporting sunglasses -- let others do the talking.

 "He was pretty good after the game," said Flames assistant coach Rich Preston. "When we saw him leave the ice (with his hands over his eye), it was pretty scary but the good thing was the doctors cleared him to fly home with us. You always worry about the pressurization on airplanes, so that's good news. Day-to-day with him."

 The Flames have a couple of days to recover in a rare two-day break between games in a series. They need it after two consecutive overtime games, including the emotional rollercoaster in Game 7 of the opening series, and the 5-2 loss Saturday in Detroit.

 "It gives guys time to get rested and ready for Game 3 and clear your mind and be ready to play with full energy," said Flames winger Chuck Kobasew.

 "Yeah ... the good about thing it is with the rest situation," Preston said.

 "With the two days break, it's good for us. Especially for Rhett but hopefully with our situation about who's not in the lineup."

 Chris Simon with a knee injury, likely a sprain, is the closest to returning, while Toni Lydman, with a suspected concussion, still appears far from healthy.

 With Denis Gauthier also out indefinitely with a knee injury, the Flames can ill-afford to lose another veteran blueliner such as Warrener.

 Mike Commodore and Steve Montador have already been pressed into playoff duty.

 "It's a great way for those guys to learn," said fellow rearguard Andrew Ference.

 "It's a good way for them to show what they have. You look at a guy like Steve -- he's been waiting for this opportunity all year. And for that matter, Mike as well.

 "That's what it's all about is getting that opportunity and proving yourself and what a great opportunity in this series against a team like Detroit."

 Certainly, it's a rather unexpected start for the two young defenceman after spending most of the regular season watching from afar -- Montador from the press box and Commodore from the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters. That's because the Flames blueline regulars were rarely ravaged by injuries.

 "Playoffs you get a little bit more injuries because everybody's going that extra step and pushing it to the edge," Ference said. "I think your self-defence mechanism in your head lessens, because if you're driving the net 100 miles per hour, I think you're a little less worried about hitting the post than in Game 41.

 "But we're good. Other than the obvious injuries and guys getting hurt, the guys that are playing lots of minutes, we're feeling fine. We're feeling physically great and I don't think anybody's feeling that strained too much as you might expect."


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