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Glencross, Smith practise with Calgary Flames, who lose Butler to injury

CALGARY - The Calgary Flames received good news and bad news on the injury front on Wednesday.

The morning after Calgary suffered a humiliating 6-1 setback on home ice to the Edmonton Oilers, forward Curtis Glencross and defenceman Derek Smith suited up to practice with the Flames (28-23-9) after extended absences from the lineup.

Meanwhile, the team announced that defenceman Chris Butler would be out of the lineup for up to three weeks after suffering a laceration on his left thigh during Tuesday night's game.

While Calgary coach Brent Sutter said that both Glencross and Smith fared well in practice, he couldn't speculate as to whether either of them would be in the lineup for Thursday's game at home against the Phoenix Coyotes (30-21-9).

"Both of them looked good," Sutter said. "It's practice, but that's why we did some drills with game-like situations too to see where they're at. It was good for them to get in there. They'll have a better feel in the morning if they're closer."

Glencross hasn't played since injuring his knee during a 2-1 shootout loss in San Jose to the Sharks on Jan. 17.

"It's good to get out there and skate with the guys obviously," said Glencross, who practised on a line with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla. "I'm excited to get back in here whether it's tomorrow or the next day or whatever."

After the injury, Glencross was told he'd be out of the lineup for six-to-eight weeks.

"I'm ahead of schedule right now," said the 29-year-old forward, who scored 18 goals and added 15 assists through 45 games before suffering the injury.

Smith hasn't played since suffering a high-ankle sprain during a 3-1 loss in New York to the Islanders on Dec. 29.

"I haven't had any problems with it," said Smith following Wednesday's practice. "I haven't had any pain. My strength feels good. I may be close to 100 (per cent). It feels pretty good."

Smith would like nothing more than to return to the lineup to help the Flames in their push towards securing a playoff berth.

"The intensity is higher now with the playoffs just around the corner," Smith said. "It's just one of those things. If I get in, I've just got to play smart and keep it simple and just try not to do too much until I get my feet wet."

Meanwhile, Butler will have to suffer the frustration of not being able to play after he needed 30 stitches to close up a gash on his left thigh.

"It's frustrating," Butler said. "You never want to be out. You want to play every game, especially this time of the year with the situation we're in and being a part of that playoff push."

Butler sustained the injury when he crashed into his own net while trying to prevent an eventual goal by Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky.

"I was kind of out of position so I was diving to reach for the puck there," he said. "I actually had it on my stick or it felt like I got a piece of it."

Instead the puck got through to Hemsky, who deposited it into the Calgary net at the same time as goalie Miikka Kiprusoff's skate cut Butler on his thigh.

"I looked down and saw that my sock was cut open and saw a cut there," Butler said. "It certainly didn't feel good, so that's when I kind of realized something was wrong and that's when I went off.

"It could have been worse—very little muscle damage and nothing wrong with the tendon."

The Flames have already lost 267 man games to injury this season. Butler joins forwards David Moss (foot), Lee Stempniak (ankle), Blair Jones (ankle) and Mikael Backlund (upper body) on injured reserve.

"It's not like we're going into unchartered waters here," Sutter said. "We've been dealing with it for a long time. It's something that you wish never happened, but it has and we just have to handle it the right way and make sure attitudes are proper."

Sutter was pleased to see his players had a positive attitude during practice a day before yet another important game against the Coyotes.

"They understand the situation," Sutter said. "They know how big every game is and how important every game is. Last night we had a stinker and we just move on past it and get ready for our next one."

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