Countin' on Kelusky again

WES GILBERTSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Tracey Kelusky flashes a grin and notes his latest lacrosse scar is "a long ways from the heart."

Either way, you get the impression it would take a lot more than a minor operation to keep the Calgary Roughnecks captain out of the lineup for Sunday's regular-season opener at the Saddledome.

"I'm ready to go," Kelusky said. "The turf is not too forgiving on the bones and joints, especially when you're an old guy like me. We took the precaution that we needed to, and now I'm ready to go."

With Kelusky cleared to return to action after off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, the Riggers will have all their stars in the lineup when they host the Minnesota Swarm in their first National Lacrosse League test of 2010 (3 p.m., Saddledome).

Kelusky's clean bill of health is certainly a good omen for the Roughnecks.

The resilient righty missed nine games during the 2008 campaign with a concussion, and the Riggers stumbled to a 3-6 mark during his absence. With Kelusky returning to his all-star form last season, the Roughnecks set a franchise record with a 12-4 regular-season record and claimed their second Champion's Cup crown.

Despite his knee injury, the 34-year-old helped the Peterborough Lakers reach the Ontario Lacrosse Association final in senior A summer ball. And although he wouldn't admit it yesterday, he likely would've shrugged off the pain to suit up for the Riggers, too.

"He has a high pain threshold and is such a lunch-bucket type of guy that is so talented. He could have a dislocated shoulder, broken wrist or something and he wouldn't tell you to get into the lineup," said Calgary coach Dave Pym.

"When he had the concussion, it obviously impacted him and hurt us that year. That's why we were being cautious, because his value to our team is priceless.

"He's a huge part of this organization and one of the reasons we've always been a contender."

He's one of the reasons the Riggers are expected to be a championship contender once again this season.

Kelusky serves as the quarterback of perhaps the NLL's most-feared offensive attack, a unit that also features Josh Sanderson, Kaleb Toth, Dane Dobbie and Scott Ranger, along with newcomer Craig Conn.

Starting netminder Matt King is also back for another campaign, while the Riggers' no-frills defence corps is expected to be even more stingy with the additions of Craig Gelsvik, Rob Kirkby and Curtis Manning.

Kelusky will be one of 16 returnees on the roster when the Riggers raise their Champion's Cup banner to the rafters at the Saddledome prior to Sunday's matinee against the Swarm. He was also a key cog in Calgary's first NLL title run in 2004.

"It's pretty special. It's a good time to reflect and kind of look back to last year and the accomplishment that we achieved," Kelusky said. "And it's nice to be able to do it before the game because it's obviously something we're striving for again this year.

"But it doesn't matter what people say about banner-raising, our job is to go out and win the game."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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