|Dion Phaneuf was originally expected to be out four four to six weeks after being gashed by a skate on Nov. 3 against the Ottawa Senators. (Toronto Sun file photo)
PITTSBURGH - If Dion Phaneuf wakes up Thursday morning with no pain in his left leg, it will be the Toronto Maple Leafs gain.
And now it looks like that gain could come sooner than expected.
After a fourth consecutive day going through a rigorous workout with the team, the captain said his return is imminent, perhaps as early as Thursdayís home date against the Philadelphia Flyers.
ďItís all how it reacts and how it feels,Ē Phaneuf said following the Leafsí gameday skate at the Consol Energy Center prior to facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Right now Iíd love to play tomorrow and focus on that. If I wake up tomorrow and it feels good, thatís when it will be.
ďI havenít said for sure and the medical staff hasnít said for sure so one day at a time.Ē
Phaneuf was originally expected to be out four four to six weeks after being gashed by a skate on Nov. 3 against the Ottawa Senators. The subsequent surgery was complicated by an allergic reaction to medication.
The big defencemen says heís been pleasantly surprised by the way the leg has felt when pushing it this week.
ďItís been real good for just starting to go hard this week,Ē Phaneuf said. ďRight now thereís been nothing but positives. Iím very close.
ďItís been tough. Itís not fun to be hurt. Itís tough mentally and tough physically to get back in game shape. Iím very excited to get that opportunity when I do.
"The biggest challenge is coming back when guys are in mid-season form so you have to be ready to go."