Leafs' Phaneuf an offensive presence

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 PM ET

Dion Phaneuf didn’t score in his Maple Leafs debut, but the New Jersey Devils found him offensive.

The physical menace the Leafs figured they were getting when Phaneuf was acquired from the Calgary Flames on Sunday was out in full force.

After taking a run at Zach Parise seven minutes into the game, Phaneuf was intercepted by Devils defenceman Colin White. By the time White remembered that Phaneuf wanted to make a positive first impression, he was getting punched in the face by the Leafs defenceman. White, who had not fought since suffering an eye injury in the 2007-08 pre-season, hung in but had no business fighting Phaneuf. Naturally, the crowd of 19,326 roared its approval.

“I made the hit and then he came over and he is sticking up for his teammate,” Phaneuf said. “That’s part of the game and I was not going to say no.”

A few shifts before the scrap, Phaneuf had settled his nerves when he crunched Travis Zajac into the end boards.

Phaneuf played with Francois Beauchemin at even-strength, and also had some shifts with Tomas Kaberle. He played the right side on the point during Leafs power plays, and got off a couple of his patented one-timers after feeds from Kaberle. Phaneuf showed off his offensive instincts with the man advantage, often popping in through the back door. The play didn’t work, but one got the impression it won’t be long before it does.

Phaneuf, the second star, led the Leafs with four shots on goal, had a team-high three blocked shots and tied Alexei Ponikarovsky with a team-high six hits. And he was an enthusiastic chatterbox.

“We could hear him talking in between periods in our coach’s office, which is almost two rooms away and three doors away,” coach Ron Wilson said. “I don’t think anybody in the Leafs room, especially young guys, have experienced a player who actually talks. I will play him by the word. He’s just full of energy.”


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