Matthew Tkachuk & the Flames wel­comed the Ari­zona Coy­otes to the Dome last night.

Timetable to re­turn still un­clear for de­fence­man MICHAEL STONE

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - wgilbert­[email protected]­ @WesGil­bert­son WES GIL­BERT­SON

The ini­tial symp­toms seemed in­no­cent enough.

“I woke up that morn­ing feel­ing not-so-good, al­most like I slept funny on my arm,” re­called Cal­gary Flames de­fence­man Michael Stone. “We did the pre-game skate, and I could hardly shoot. I mean, it hurt, but noth­ing that was a big red flag or any­thing like that. But I worked out later, and my arm got re­ally swollen and kind of pur­ple-y.

“So we went the next morn­ing, and that’s when they found the clot.”

That was back in late Novem­ber, and Stone has been side­lined by that blood clot ever since.

On Sun­day, with his for­mer team — the Ari­zona Coy­otes — in town to clash with his cur­rent crew, the 28-year-old rear­guard missed his 25th con­sec­u­tive con­test on in­jured re­serve.

“It’s been hard, es­pe­cially to have it in the mid­dle of the sea­son,” Stone ac­knowl­edged. “For the first lit­tle bit, I didn’t feel nor­mal. But now, I’ve been feel­ing nor­mal for quite a while.

“So it’s been dif­fi­cult. But what has helped is at least I can skate. If wasn’t skat­ing and I was just sit­ting around, I think that would have been worse.”

There is still no timetable for Stone’s re­turn to ac­tion … or even to prac­tice with his pals.

Be­cause he is still on blood-thin­ners, he sim­ply can’t risk be­ing clipped by a stick or a puck or any­thing else that might open him up.

Stone is slated for an­other check-up this week. As he summed up, “It’s a wait­ing game for me, it re­ally is.”

Un­til that blood clot is gone, he’ll be skat­ing sep­a­rately with Ju­uso Val­i­maki — the rookie is re­cov­er­ing from a high-an­kle sprain — and watch­ing his Pa­cific Divi­sion-lead­ing team from ei­ther the press-box at the Sad­dle­dome or from the com­fort of his couch when they’re on the road.

“I watch the games just like you watch the games — I see that we haven’t played our best hockey re­cently, but we find ways to win,” Stone said prior to Sun­day’s bat­tle be­tween the Flames and Coy­otes. “For me, I’ve been up in the press-box and I’ll see things are maybe not go­ing well, but then we turn it around and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re com­ing now. We’re go­ing to win this hockey game.’ That’s how ev­ery game feels.

“So it’s been fun. It would be a lot more fun if I was a part of it, but … ”

While he waits for the all­clear from doc­tors, Stone was able to en­joy some bonus time with his wife and kids over the hol­i­days and has been busy with the Flames’ skat­ing in­struc­tor and also work­ing on the sort of devel­op­ment drills that you can’t of­ten squeeze in dur­ing the grind of the 82-game slate.

Although No. 26 was op­er­at­ing as Cal­gary’s sev­enth de­fence­man be­fore the blood clot was dis­cov­ered, a could-be con­tender can never too much blue-line depth — es­pe­cially of the vet­eran va­ri­ety — as the play­offs near.

“Hope­fully, I come back and I can con­trib­ute and be a part of it,” Stone said. “Hope­fully the work that I’ve put in skat­ing-wise and skills-wise and stuff like that, you can see some of the ben­e­fits of it. That’s the goal.

“Hope­fully, at the end of the day, it works out.”


It was an­other mile­stone night for Cal­gary’s cap­tain, Mark Gior­dano, who hit the 800-game plateau in Sun­day’s date with the Desert Dogs. The 35-year-old is one of just four guys to log that many ap­pear­ances in the Flaming C — fel­low de­fence­men Al MacIn­nis (803 GP) and Robyn Regehr (826 GP) and iconic right-winger Jarome Iginla (1,219 GP) are the oth­ers. “I just try not to take it for granted,” Gior­dano said af­ter Sun­day’s morn­ing skate. “I want to play for a long time still. I have a lot of years left, in my mind, and I want to keep play­ing, keep stay­ing fresh” … Flames de­fence­man Travis Ha­monic was a sur­prise scratch against the Coy­otes due to a fam­ily ill­ness … Down on the farm, Stock­ton Heat winger Buddy Robin­son has stretched his per­sonal point-spree to 10 straight games. The 27-yearold Robin­son, a long­time friend and for­mer high­school team­mate of Flames’ all-star Johnny Gau­dreau, was called up to Cal­gary shortly be­fore the Christ­mas break but didn’t get in the lineup.



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