|Dion Phaneuf could be in the Leafs lineup as early as this weekend's home date against the Canadiens. (QMI Agency/Tony Caldwell)
PITTSBURGH - Another solid day of practice has Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf tentatively eying a weekend return to game action.
In fact, if the big defenceman has no setbacks in his recovery from the slashed leg he sustained on Nov. 3 and the subsequent surgery to repair it, Phaneuf could be in the lineup Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
“He’s getting close, he had a great workout (on Monday in Washington),” Leafs assistant coach Rob Zettler said following the team’s off day practice here in advance of Wednesday’s game against the Penguins. “I think you’ll probably see him within the next three or four days now.”
Zettler, who coaches the Leafs defencemen, said it is “possible” Phaneuf could be in the lineup as early as this weekend's home date against the Montreal Canadiens. After playing here, Toronto returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
For the third consecutive day, Phaneuf was a full participant in the team’s practice Tuesday afternoon and has gradually been adding some physical contact to his game.
The emotional captain is certainly itching to get back to his team, which has won back-to-back shootout contests including Monday’s dramatic comeback against Washington.
“It’s tough enough sitting out but when the team is not winning as much as we’d like, it’s tough to be out,” Phaneuf said between periods of the Capitals game. “You want to be out there. You really want to help the team out.”
Apparently he's about to get the chance.