Winning the case for defence

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Recently rewarded with a multi-million dollar, long-term contract and fresh off a starring role in Round 1 of the playoffs, Chris Phillips is now earning some heady recognition across the league.

In the latest edition of The Hockey News, Phillips was declared the winner of the publication's annual Rod Langway Award as the NHL's top defensive defenceman.

The Senators veteran learned of the prestigious distinction after yesterday's morning skate.

"There are a lot of guys out there who have the same role as me," he said. "To be singled out is a big honour."

Phillips played in each of Ottawa's 82 games this season and was a plus-36, tied for seventh best in the league.

TOP OPPONENTS

This was accomplished while generally lining up alongside fellow "shut-down" blueliner Anton Volchenkov (plus-37) and against the opposition's top forwards.

Phillips and Volchenkov played key roles in the Senators' first-round elimination of Pittsburgh when they were assigned to keep Sidney Crosby in check.

"Phillips is as smart as they come," Devils centre Scott Gomez said yesterday. "With Volchenkov, they make a great pair. Phillips really picked up his game this year."

Phillips, selected by the Senators with the first overall pick in the 1996 draft, also had a career high in goals (eight) and points (26).

But it was in the plus-minus department that the 29-year-old veteran really made an impressive jump. His previous best mark was set in 2005-06, when he was a plus-19.

CONSISTENT

"I was maybe more pleased with my consistency, going out every night with Volchie and having that challenge of shutting down the top lines," Phillips said when asked about the improvements in his game. "For the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job of that.

''It's something to be proud of."


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