Thrown in the middle

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:31 PM ET


 Craig Conroy raced to the Flames bench in the second period last night, holding his mouth in obvious pain, clipped by a high stick from Canucks goaltender Johan Hedberg while clearing the puck.

 Conroy quickly hustled to the dressing room before returning at the start of the third, still grimacing in pain while wearing a full face shield. He lost the puck and his check on the Canucks game-winning goal by Matt Cooke.

 The temporary loss of the top line's centre between wingers Jarome Iginla and Chris Simon forced right-winger Chuck Kobasew to fill the considerable gap until the third frame.

 Conroy is another in a flock of Flames centres who've fallen to injuries this season, propelling the likes of Kobasew to shift gears in mid-stream.

 "I've played with different guys all year long," said Kobasew, the Flames top pick, 14th overall in the 2001 entry draft.

 "I feel comfortable with whoever I'm out there playing with. It's the same game plan for every line so if we stick to our system we should be able to play with anybody."

 Kobasew won four of six faceoffs in Conroy's spot but the line was unproductive in two quick man-advantage chances with the game tied 1-1.

 "We had a couple of powerplay opportunities when Craig was gone and obviously we'd like to have him back for those because he clicks well with his unit but if I'm given the opportunity, I've got to be ready," said Kobasew.

 Kobasew, who turns 22 next week, collected 17 points in 70 games at right wing this season. He's seen spot duty at centre lately with injuries to regular centres Stephane Yelle and Dean McAmmond.

 Defenceman Toni Lydman left the contest in the second frame but didn't return after what the Flames called an upper-body injury.

 "He got a cheap shot, that's what I thought," said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said.

 Lydman missed 10 games late in the regular season with a concussion and was unavailable for comment after the game.


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