Phaneuf a changed man

Dion Phaneuf is a changed man since Ron Wilson coached against him. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

Dion Phaneuf is a changed man since Ron Wilson coached against him. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

Dion Phaneuf is a changed man since Ron Wilson coached against him.

When Wilson coached the San Jose Sharks and Phaneuf was patrolling the blue line for the Calgary Flames, Wilson said Phaneuf was not hard to play against.

“In San Jose, we thought as long as you had your head up, you could entice him to running around a bit, especially in the neutral zone,” Wilson said. “He was always looking for a hit, and when defencemen are caught, they are not back to defend. He did not use his stick very well.

“We used to take advantage when Dion was on the ice. He got a lot of hits, but we scored a lot of goals when he was on the ice.

“Now, I think it is his positioning and patience with his physical play which has enabled him to do a better job defensively.”

Phaneuf has come a long way, and concurred that his work with his stick has improved. While Wilson may have been exaggerating when he said earlier this season that Phaneuf was the best defenceman in the NHL, there’s no doubt Phaneuf is a lot more defensively aware than he was when the Leafs acquired him in January 2010.

MENTAL DRAIN

Clarke MacArthur has missed five games because of three injuries, and the season barely is two months old.

“The mental part is the worst,” MacArthur said. “Enough already. Hopefully, this is it.”

MacArthur sprained his shoulder (not the one he hurt earlier this season) against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and did not play versus New Jersey on Tuesday. Wilson said MacArthur will be in the lineup on Friday in Washington.

“This is nothing major,” MacArthur said. “I got hurt right at the very end of the first period (in New York), I spun in the corner and then went straight down on my shoulder.”

NICE GOAL, DAD

There’s a clip making the rounds online of Colby Armstrong’s son, Cruise, cheering while watching a video of his dad scoring a goal.

“It’s like he is a little celebrity, and he’s only 18 months old,” Armstrong said. “We were lucky to catch that on video. He loves hockey already. He’s quite the character.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

NO SURPRISE

Joe Colborne did more than just fill a sweater during nine games with the Leafs, scoring one goal and recording three assists. But it was not a shock that Colborne was returned to the Toronto Marlies on Thursday, with MacArthur and Armstrong coming back into the lineup.

“Someone is playing nine or 10 minutes, instead of playing 20 minutes in the AHL, where they are better off,” Wilson said. “The player won’t tell you that, but in terms of development, it’s much better to play a lot.”

The 6-foot-5, 213-pound Colborne, who should be a force in the NHL once he adds a few more pounds, averaged 13 minutes 14 seconds a game for the Leafs.

LOOSE LEAFS

Players will say they know when they’ve suffered a serious injury, but in Joffrey Lupul’s case, he knew that he did not when he collided with Andy Greene of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. “It was just my leg, not my knee, so it was not a big deal,” Lupul said ... Wilson is adamant he will not put struggling winger Nikolai Kulemin in the press box for a game. But has he seen anything that might indicate Kulemin is ready to break out of his season-long slump? “No,” Wilson said. “It comes and goes. He has to keep working hard.” Kulemin, after a 30-goal season, has two in 28 games, putting him on pace for six ... The Leafs toured the Canadian embassy in Washington upon arriving in the U.S. capital late on Thursday afternoon.


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