The majority of his Maple Leafs teammates had showered dressed in their suits and were back on the team bus but captain Dion Phaneuf laid on an exercise mat in a hallway deep in the Canadian Tire Centre late on Thursday night twisting his body into a bunch of painful-looking stretches. The 28-year-old Phaneuf had just played in his first pre-season game of 2013 a 3-2 Leafs win against the Ottawa Senators in the nation’s capital. Fittingly Phaneuf a cruncher of ice time under coach Randy Carlyle was on the ice for a Leafs-high 23 minutes 37 seconds paired for much of the night with rookie Stuart Percy. Some veterans will grumble about the tedious nature of training camp but Phaneuf isn’t one of them. ‘Game shape’ Eight pre-season games and 18 days of camp will be history by the time the final Leafs roster practises in preparation for the Oct. 1 opener. It’s a lot of hockey and instruction by coach Randy Carlyle and his assistants crammed into a span of under three weeks. But it’s needed no matter that the Leafs didn’t so much have an overhaul during the off-season as they added integral players in David Clarkson Dave Bolland and Jonathan Bernier. “It’s about getting back into game shape” Phaneuf said. “It’s an adjustment period for new guys and veteran guys because when you are off for a couple of months the little things slip away. “It’s the timing that I find is the biggest (facet to grasp again). The timing is something that is missing at the start but it comes back pretty quick.” It was there and it wasn’t for Phaneuf in his first game since the Leafs were eliminated by the Boston Bruins on May 13. He was beaten by Senators forward Mika Zibanejad for a clear scoring chance but on other occasions deftly moved the puck away from potential harm. On the grander scale it’s imperative that Phaneuf and his Leafs teammates are moving seamlessly when they head on to the ice at the Bell Centre in Montreal in 2 1/2 weeks. Carlyle already has lamented the greater difficulties that will come in trying to make it to the post-season again and just because the Leafs should learn from the devastating loss to the Bruins it doesn’t make them an automatic to return to the post-season.
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf talks about timing and the purpose of camp
Toronto Sun | Sep 21