It was sometime just before the all-star break when Dion Phaneuf sat in the Maple Leafs dressing room following practice and chatted informally with a couple of reporters.

That's a rarity for Phaneuf, who is cordial, but usually all business, in his mostly daily scrums.

He made it clear he wasn't making excuses for anything that happened before, but the Leafs captain said he had only recently started feeling fully recovered from the nasty gash and subsequent surgery on his leg that had kept him out of the lineup for 16 games in November and December.