Dion the Punisher

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

His game face seemingly is always on.

But Dion Phaneuf does occasionally let his hair down. It's just a matter of who he lets see that side of him.

"I laugh, because sometimes it's just the way he comes across," said Flames centre Craig Conroy. "That's not exactly who Dion is. I think he guards himself with the media a lot of the time. But when it comes to game time, he's there to play and he's going to be a warrior out there.

FINISHES CHECKS

"He's going to finish every check, regardless of his body, too. He has some huge hits, but it's going to take a toll on his body, too."

Phaneuf is one of the most intense competitors in the Flames locker-room.

He's a punishing hitter with a huge offensive upside who was recently named to his second all-star team.

Heading into last night's contest against the Edmonton Oilers, the local native had six goals and 24 assists in 45 games this season.

"He's wired for sound pretty much every day," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "You don't have to get him excited about playing hockey. I think that's his personality. He's full of life on and off the ice. He's actually a treat to be around. He's got a real good skill-set to go along with his enthusiasm for the game. He's going to get better and better with more experience."

How good Phaneuf can get, time will tell.

But in just three seasons, he's become one of the top defencemen in the league. And this off-season when he becomes a restricted free agent, he is expected to command a high price tag.

"I like being an energy guy, that's for sure," Phaneuf said. "It's a big part of my game that I have to bring every night to be effective. It's my job to play with that edge. I'm not a guy that can't play without that energy, that emotion and that physical style."

It's that style that got Phaneuf voted into the all-star game although he may have to tone it down once he gets to Atlanta. But that would be the only hockey game where he's not going all out looking to blow someone up.

"That's the thing about being young, he's got tons of energy no doubt about it," Conroy said. "He plays all 60 minutes if we're up five or down five, he's going to play the same way all game, every game. He's going to do everything that makes him such a good player.

"Sometimes when he takes a guy's head off when it's 5-0 with two minutes to go, you're thinking it might not be the best time. But he doesn't play like that. If he sees a guy with his head down, whether it be the first minute or the last minute, he's going to try and kill him, no matter what's going on."

INFECTIOUS

And while the game face does occasionally come off, the energy level is seemingly always high. It's infectious in the locker-room and the Flames feed off it.

"He definitely likes to joke around a lot, he has a lot of energy," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "He's a really unique guy, he never seems to get tired. Everyone else seems to go in cycles. Some days you feel great, other days you're trying to recover.

"But every game, he's always there, he loves to initiate contact and battles. It could be 2-2 or it could be 7-1 and he's still playing the same way. That's a credit to him, he loves to play and compete and to battle."


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