SUN Hockey Pool

Dion damage draws raves

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Dion Phaneuf may not be a fan of large crowds in the locker-room but he just made a big impression in front of a national TV audience.

The rookie defenceman was a force to be reckoned with last night, helping inspire the Calgary Flames to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the Saddledome with a few huge hits.

"He was, as Pierre McGuire would say, 'a monster,' " said Flames centre Byron Ritchie, naming the highly excitable TSN colourman who laid his trademark phrase on Phaneuf once or twice during the broadcast.

"He played awesome. For such a young guy, he's so mature, brings so many aspects to the game -- bone-crushing hits, his offence and his defensive abilities.

"He's an amazing player."

Phaneuf's first highlight-reel smackdown came late in the first period as Kings centre Jeff Cowan sped into the Flames zone. Phaneuf stepped up and dropped a shoulder to send Cowan crashing into the boards.

In the second period, Phaneuf made a similar hit on Sean Avery a little deeper in the Flames' end, then put an exclamation point on the shift with a second crushing blow on Avery in the corner.

Tough guy Chris Simon, who pounded on George Parros during a first-period fight, was also impressed by the rookie's hit parade.

"Dion was a force out there. The way he can dominate a game is pretty awesome," said Simon, who was chatting with the 20-year-old on the bench after one of his big plays.

"I can't remember what exactly was said but it's great to see him finish the body like that. It brings a lot of life to the team and to the crowd and really gets us going."

Phaneuf's assist put him in a tie for fourth with Richard Mulhern (Atlanta, 1976-77) for most points in one season by a Flames rookie defenceman with 44. It's the physical presence that was most obvious yesterday.

"When games get like that at this time of the year, you've got to push back," said Phaneuf. "When I get an opportunity to step up, I'll take it."


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