CALGARY (CP) - It will be a while yet before Jarome Iginla wears the flaming red C again.
When the Calgary Flames captain suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a game on Jan. 4, he downplayed the injury by saying he would be sidelined "at least a week."
Two weeks later, Iginla hopes to start skating after next Wednesday's NHL all-star game in Dallas.
But even that may be pushing it.
"I'm hoping right after, but that would be optimistic," Iginla said Thursday. "The timeline is a month, but right after the all-star break is three weeks and that's what I'm hoping for."
Iginla had slightly injured his MCL once before during his career and only missed one game. Doctors told him the injury was more severe this time.
"They tell you it's worse and you believe them, you just don't like to say 'oh, it's going to be a month,"' Iginla said.
He's wearing a brace on his left knee and is scheduled to see team doctors again Friday, when the Flames host the Anaheim Ducks at the Pengrowth Saddledome (Sportsnet, 7 p.m. ET).
The Ducks were tied with Buffalo atop the NHL standings heading into Thursday's game in Edmonton.
Calgary heads to Edmonton on Saturday for the Flames' last game before the all-star hiatus.
Iginla was fifth in NHL scoring with 23 goals and 30 assists in 39 games and off to one of the best starts in his career at the time of his injury.
The 29-year-old from Edmonton, who has twice won the NHL's goal-scoring title, would have joined teammates Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff in Dallas next week for his fourth all-star game if not for his knee.
The Flames are 4-2 since their captain's injury. They won four in a row before back-to-back road losses in Nashville and Dallas this week. Head coach Jim Playfair said the losses don't make him any more anxious to get his star player back in the lineup.
"He's not in the room, so he can't help us win and he has to come back at 100 per cent to help us win," Playfair said. "You can't really let the two criss-cross over and let the emotional wins and losses come into wanting to speed up (healing) Jarome's injury."
Kristian Huselius, with five goals and three assists, and Daymond Langkow, with four goals and four assists, have helped fill the offensive void during Iginla's absence.
Winger Tony Amonte said the Flames can afford to be patient with their captain's malady.
"We want him to come back when he's ready to come back, not to come back early and have this thing nagging all year," he said. "If it takes a few extra days, an extra week, so be it.
"We have enough firepower in the lineup where we should be able to maintain our wins and maintain the way we've been playing."
But the Flames can't afford to be without Iginla for too long. Calgary was seventh in the Western Conference on Thursday, with only 10 points separating sixth through 10th.
The Flames and Vancouver Canucks are wrestling for the Northwest Division lead. The Canucks were one point up on Calgary heading into Thursday's game against Ottawa.
Calgary's 6-12-4 record on the road has been a drag on the team in the Western Conference standings.
"We are not taking control of our game and work ethic early in the games," Playfair said."We're waiting to see if we're up and a goal or down a goal and all of a sudden away we go."
The Flames want to go into the all-star break with a firm grip on a playoff spot or even the division lead, which makes these next two games key.
"We need them," Amonte said. "Anaheim, the best team in the league, you've got to be ready to play against them and then you go up to Edmonton for another divisional game.
"Before this break, you'd love to walk away with four points and that's our goal."
Notes - The Calgary Flames announced the signing of goaltender Leland Irving to a three-year rookie contract Thursday. Irving, who plays for the WHL's Everett Silvertips, was Canada's backup goaltender at the world junior hockey championship. ... The Flames also recalled F Eric Godard from the AHL's Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. Godard was scoreless with seven penalty minutes in three games with the Flames earlier this season. ... Calgary is 2-1 versus Anaheim so far this season.