Healing Flames

Flames head coach Mike Keenan dodged most questions about the health of individual Calgary players, but did offer one piece of good news following an hour-long United Center practice on Friday.

Chicago Blackhawk Brent Seabrook slams Calgary Flame Warren Peters into the boards Wednesday. The series has been a physical one from the outset.

CHICAGO — Flames head coach Mike Keenan dodged most questions about the health of individual Calgary players, but did offer one piece of good news following an hour-long United Center practice on Friday.

A bruised right hand won’t keep veteran Flames centre Daymond Langkow out of today’s Game 5 clash with the Blackhawks as the NHL Western Conference quarter-finals series returns to Chicago.

“I’m hesitating because there’s so many (injuries),” said Keenan after a 10-second pause. “Our response is that they’re day-to-day. Some are more days than others.

“(But) Daymond will play.”

Langkow, who has three points (all assists) and has logged 16-minutes or more in each series game, was hit with a puck with five minutes left in Wednesday’s 6-4 victory over Chicago at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Keenan was otherwise tightlipped about injuries and how lineups might be shuffled as the Flames and Blackhawks clash at 7 p.m. (TSN) in the best-of-seven series, now deadlocked at two wins apiece.

“Injuries are part of the club’s preparation,” said Keenan. “Most teams in the playoffs have injuries and your preparation is managing your lineup and your club in any situation.”

If Friday’s practice is any indication, the Flames may be relatively close to full strength. Joining Langkow on the ice for practice were left-winger Rene Bourque and centre Craig Conroy.

Langkow also suffered an unspecified injury on Wednesday after a hit from Chicago winger Adam Burish. And Bourque hurt his ankle in Game 3 and didn’t play at midweek.

Forward Andrew Roy is the only Calgary player certain to sit out. He’ll serve a league-mandated one-game suspension following a pre-game incident last Saturday when he initiated contact with Chicago defenceman Aaron Johnson.

Roy, who was suspended for one game and fined US$2,500, had appeared in two playoff games, including four minutes 26 seconds of Game 1 and 3:44 last Saturday.

Despite roster uncertainties, the Flames feel confident as they hope to claim home ice advantage with a victory in what has been a physical, aggressive series.

“Those first two games (in Chicago) could have gone either way,” said Langkow. “Even though we lost two, we were a confident team going home and we got a couple of wins. We’re feeling good, but we’re not going to take anything for granted. Eventually we’re going to have to win in this building if we want to win the series.”

Since Chicago is a younger team making the franchise’s first playoff appearance in seven years, Calgary’s approach has been to get tough to test the inexperienced Blackhawks for physical and mental weaknesses.

“People want to say because we’re young, we don’t know how to handle the physical play, but all our guys are still healthy and our guys feel pretty good,” Burish said. “It’s a non-issue.”

Flames star Jarome Iginla said Friday that Calgary’s physical play was, for one thing, a way to slow the Blackhawks down.

“We don’t play as open or end-to-end,” he said. “When we are having success, we need to play physical, aggressive and get in your face . . . When we’ve let up and let them skate, they can skate and make things happen. We got to stay on that body.”

The series returns to Calgary on Monday for Game 6. If necessary, a Game 7 would be played at the United Center next Wednesday.

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