Heads up, Dion's back!

Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf checks Sabres defenceman Chris Butler during a preseason game...

Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf checks Sabres defenceman Chris Butler during a preseason game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario on September 27, 2010. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:56 PM ET

Alex Tanguay still vividly remembers the kind of impact Dion Phaneuf can have.

It was during a road trip out east during Tanguay’s first season as a member of the Calgary Flames when the lasting memory was made.

Phaneuf crushed Denis Hamel with an open-ice hit that sent the Ottawa Senators winger flying.

“I still remember that hit,” said Tanguay, whose Flames face Phaneuf at the Saddledome Thursday night for the first time since the young blueliner was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.

“It was something that you don’t want to happen to yourself.”

To avoid just that, the Flames will have to keep their heads up every time Phaneuf is on the ice Thursday night when they host the Leafs.

Just about everyone asked about the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder Tuesday said exactly that. He’s going to make some noise.

“When has he ever played a quiet game out there?” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “You don’t expect anything but vintage Dion.

“Our forwards, just a little soft reminder, whether you guys print it or we say it, make sure you’ve got your head up. He’ll definitely be looking to make a statement.”

Sometimes it comes at the expense of sound defensive strategy — Phaneuf has been known to take himself out of the play to deliver a big blow — and if his emotions get the best of him in Calgary, he could be headhunting early and often.

You have to expect at least one grand attempt in his third game back from a nasty laceration on his leg.

“I think he’ll be pretty pumped up to be back here in Calgary,” said former blueline partner Robyn Regehr.

“He’ll be rested and ready to go. He’ll be looking to create as much out there as possible, whether it’s looking for a big hit in open ice or getting open with his shot.”

Expect him to feed off the energy at the Saddledome, where nearly half the crowd will be wearing Leafs colours.

He can say it’s just another game — and expect to hear those words out of his mouth Wednesday — but everyone knows it’s not.

“Nooooo. I mean, people can say that it’s just another game. C’mon, really?” said veteran Craig Conroy. “I expect him to be flying around.”

Olli Jokinen is another Flame who said he’d be keeping his head up.

“Especially in the first 10 minutes,” Jokinen said with a grin.

“He won’t be quiet. He’s probably going to run his mouth and he’s going to try to hit us pretty hard, too, at the same time. That’s the way he plays and that’s when he’s at his best.”

The evidence of it is littered across the Internet.

The Hamel hit also sticks out for Regehr. He was on the ice with Phaneuf at the time and had a great view of the play.

“That one was a big one,” Regehr said. “(Hamel) was laid out horizontally in the air.

“There’ve been a few really, really good ones.”

Among those found on YouTube, some of the best include one on the Red Wings’ Jiri Hudler and a memorable pre-season crash into Kyle Okposo.

If they’re not careful, one of the Flames could be in the next video posted.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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