Phaneuf's broken ribs last straw

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Both of Craig Conroy's shoulders were encased in ice after last night's loss.

And he was one of the lucky ones. He was not injured badly enough to be knocked out of the Calgary Flames' critical playoff game.

Many -- so many -- weren't so lucky.

Let's face it, part of the NHL playoffs, a big part, is the injury factor.

Certainly, the Flames wrote their demise in their six-game loss in the best-of-seven playoff series, but their shorthanded situation played a part. And we're not talking about those early game trips to the sin bin.

The Flames added defenceman Dion Phaneuf to the injured brigade for last night's 4-1 series-clinching loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, and had to turn to Anders Eriksson.

That's on top of not having Robyn Regehr and Mark Giordano for the entire series, and Cory Sarich playing through pain.

"I thought we were positioned well, and then in the last three weeks of the season we got decimated and the attrition grew as the playoffs went on in terms of healthy people," head coach Mike Keenan said.

"Say what you want, these players worked as hard as they could, but two things happened: The attrition erodes your confidence a little bit and they're smart, bright people and know -- not having a disrespectful approach to the players coming in -- but you're talking about significant players in this league, not just on this team."

Upon elimination, Keenan let it be known some of the ailments that put his players on the sidelines.

"Phaneuf's got broken ribs and Robyn has a very badly injured knee," Keenan said.

"This is a tight series and if you look at the overall end results, you have Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich -- Cory played with a fractured ankle -- and now Phaneuf, three of the top defencemen out. Take two of their top defencemen, take (Duncan) Keith out and (Brent) Seabrook out, it's a different series."

Giordano needed shoulder surgery after a late-February injury and veteran defenceman Rhett Warrener was on the shelf all season due to a shoulder problem. Then throw in the forwards who played despite problems. Conroy played despite injured shoulders. Rene Bourque returned from a high-ankle sprain. Daymond Langkow suffered a broken bone in his left hand in the season to miss nine games, and then was hit on the right hand by Brian Campbell's shot in the fourth game.

"He didn't have any fractures, but going into the playoffs he had a bad hand and got the other one hit. People will say he didn't score any goals, but he didn't have much strength in his hands," Keenan said. "It's a cliche to say there's no excuses, but sometimes there's reasons."

The players didn't want to say it, however.

"Injuries are injuries, it happens," Conroy said. "It's disappointing it happens in the playoffs, but you try to play through it. I give the guys credit. They came, banged up or not, and worked hard.

"We talked about trying to get 45 shots, we threw everything at (Nikolai Khabulin) and he was up to the challenge."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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