February 4, 2010
Phaneuf: Season not a writeoff yet
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
Newly acquired defenceman Dion Phaneuf will hear no talk about the Maple Leafs looking ahead to next season.
Even though the Leafs are 10 points out of a playoff spot with 25 games to play and six teams to pass, the arrival of Phaneuf, goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere and winger Fredrik Sjostrom has provided a team-wide shot of adrenalin.
"It's not over yet," Phaneuf said Wednesday at the MasterCard Centre, the day after a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.
"Right now, we're focused on trying to make a push toward the playoffs. Statistically, we're a way back, but you win a few, a couple of other teams lose and you're right there."
No sooner had goaltender Giguere said during an introductory conference call Sunday that there was still hope, that he blanked the Devils on Tuesday, and the Leafs gained ground on a handful of other Eastern teams trying to get into playoff contention.
The timing is certainly right by Leaf standards. After a typical January, where they were 3-10-2 — making them 12-25-5 in that month since 2007-08, they began February on a stirring note with Giguere, Phaneuf and Sjostrom the three stars from Tuesday, in that order. Since the lockout in 2004-05, the Leafs are 63-44-15 in February, March and April.
The Leafs have a rare chance to bask in the win, with no games Wednesday or Thursday. Their previous three victories over Florida, Nashville and Philadelphia saw them play and lose the very next day.
"Sometimes it's nice to go back out there, win or lose," coach Ron Wilson said. "But considering we have a new look to our team, maybe a couple of practices isn't going to hurt us. It will be good to familiarize ourselves with each other, (work on) the systems and all the little things we do that might be different from another team."
If time were not so tight and the schedule and the math not so daunting, perhaps more people would take the Leafs' chances seriously. But the Devils presumably will have Martin Brodeur back in goal on Friday at home and the hot Ottawa Senators will be waiting for the Leafs at the ACC on Saturday. Wilson's old club, the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks, are here on Monday.
Mike Komisarek's examination to determine if the defenceman is fit to play for the Leafs and the U.S. Olympic team was not to be conducted until later Wednesday, but he did engage in some contact at practice.