Dion's in blue mood

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Relaxing in the dressing room, Tony Amonte turned to the rookie and said: "Buy me a blue."

Dion Phaneuf dutifully grabbed a glass of blue Powerade and delivered it to the veteran NHL forward.

"Being a good rookie," Phaneuf said.

Which is all the Flames expect from their top prospect.

Sure, the organization would love to see Phaneuf excel in his rookie year, starting with tonight's season opener in Minnesota.

But they're not necessarily expecting a Calder Trophy season from the 20-year-old, chosen ninth overall in the 2003 draft.

"The guys have been great to me, including me in everything and that helps," he said.

"Being partnered with Roman Hamrlik, an all-star, is something else that's been very special. I get to come to the rink every day and learn as much as I can from the guys."

Marcus Nilson saw first-hand what can happen to a young defenceman when he's brought onto an NHL roster and expected to become a dominating force. Being in Florida at the time, Nilson watched Jay Bouwmeester make the jump at age 18 with people calling him the next Bobby Orr.

Phaneuf, said Nilson, "is in a way better spot than Jay was. We didn't have enough on that team. He's coming onto a good team with a good bunch of guys he can learn from."

Learn from, yes but now the time has come for Phaneuf to prove he belongs in the NHL.

"I was fortunate enough to play a lot of games in the pre-season, so that will help me get used to the pace of play and the pace of the game," he said. "Still, it's very exciting ... I'm sure the nerves (today) will be there a little bit. I just have to be focused and ready to play."


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