Early return for Phaneuf?

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

TORONTO - When you are mired in an eight-game losing streak, any news is good news. So getting your captain back ahead of schedule would be great news for the reeling Maple Leafs. That’s why coach Ron Wilson was talking excitedly after the morning skate on Tuesday about the possibility of injured captain Dion Phaneuf hitting the ice as early as next week.

“He’s walking now, with a slight limp, it’s barely even noticeable,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, within the next week, he’ll be able to get back on the ice. Again, I’m not a doctor. It all depends … He’s already had the staples in his knee removed, so the actual cut on the outside is healed. Now it’s waiting for all the things he cut on the inside to heal up.”

It was first thought the 25-year-old defenceman would miss four to six weeks after his leg was sliced by Peter Regin’s skate blade in a game against Ottawa on Nov. 2.

RON’S HUMAN TOO

No matter how much they pretend otherwise, athletes and coaches are hurting when their team is mired in a losing streak. For the Leafs, it was eight consecutive games without a win heading into Tuesday night’s contest against Nashville, and coach Wilson was feeling it. “I don’t read the paper or watch sports (talk shows) or listen to talk radio,” Wilson said after yesterday’s morning skate. “But, yes, you do question everything you do, you’re human. But it’s not what other people are thinking, it’s what you are thinking yourself. No one wants to not have won a game in eight, so you do bring that stuff home.”

PASSING GRADE

Nazem Kadri feels pretty good about his season debut with the Leafs on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. The Marlies callup logged 18:05 in ice time and had an even plus-minus rating “I felt pretty good. I think I handled things pretty well. I looked at it as my first NHL game, too.” Kadri’s actual first regular-season game with the Leafs came on Feb. 8, 2010 against the San Jose Sharks.

FORWARD HO!

With their defencemen having scored just two power-play goals all season, the Maple Leafs were planning to stick with the experiment of having forward Kris Versteeg blast away from the point with the man advantage against Nashville last night. “We’re trying to get a little more offence and Kris isn’t on one of the two lines going out there (on the power play) and it’s a good opportunity. He’s played some point on the power play in the past. We’re just try to create a little more offence from the backend.”

Wilson’s right, Versteeg has played on the point before – in junior hockey. “I haven’t really done it since I was 19,” the 24-year-old Versteeg said. “It’s something you have to get accustomed to.”

BRUTAL MOOD

Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn is feeling pretty good about the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ chances against the Calgary Stampeders in this weekend’s CFL Western Division final. The native of Saskatoon didn’t hesitate to pick Saskatchewan as the winner of the CFL clash. Too bad he isn’t feeling a little more optimistic about the Leafs’ play of late. “It surrounds you all the time, you can’t really get away from it right now. It’s not very fun to be losing all the time, and it kind of puts you in a brutal mood outside the rink. We’ve got to start winning here, or it’s not going to be very fun at all.”


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