Phaneuf hits 500

Dion Phaneuf takes out Penguin James Neal. The Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Pittsburgh Penguins...

Dion Phaneuf takes out Penguin James Neal. The Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday October 29, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Defenceman Dion Phaneuf played in his 500th career NHL game on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Maple Leafs captain said he doesn’t know where the years went.

“I remember when I first started and Iggy (Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla) said, ‘Enjoy it because before you know it’ … I think when I came in he was seven or eight years in the league and he said, ‘You’ll be there before you know it.’ It’s quick, it flies by, but it’s a lot of fun,” Phaneuf said after the Leafs’ morning skate on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder started his career with Calgary in 2005 and played four-plus seasons with the Flames before being traded to the Leafs in the latter half of the 2009-10 season. Heading into Tuesday’s contest, the Edmonton native had recorded 88 goals and 198 assists for 286 points. The hard-hitting blueliner had also racked up 666 penalty minutes, a beast of a number.

Phaneuf’s best season came in 2007, his third year in the league, when he had 17 goals and 43 assists.

“The years just seem to fly by and it’s my seventh year now. You don’t know where the time goes, but I’m really excited about what we have here, being a part of this team and being a part of this organization. We’re going in the right direction and we’re building something.”

EMPATHY FOR CROSBY

Leafs goalie James Reimer feels for Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Reimer missed 18 games with concussion-like symptoms this season and can relate to what Crosby, who is out again after playing just eight games this year and missing a big chunk of last season, is going through.

“I feel bad for him,” Reimer said after the morning skate. “Concussion, concussion-like symptoms … It’s honestly the worst injury on earth because there’s nothing you can do for it. You feel pretty helpless. You feel bad for (Crosby) and at the same time you feel bad for the game too, because he’s arguably the best player in the league.”

Reimer returned from his injury on Dec. 3, but had still not won heading into Tuesday night.

LOMBARDI RETURNS TO PRACTICE

Some positive news for the Leafs; Speedy forward Matthew Lombardi was back on the ice with his teammates for the first time since being injured in a game in Nashville on Nov. 17.

“It was just nice to get out there with the rest of the guys and make some passes and get some shots and see how it feels,” Lombardi said of testing out his injured shoulder. “It was definitely disappointing having a setback the way I did but, I’m happy with the way things went today.”

While there is no timeline for Lombardi’s return, he said, “We’ll keep pushing it, be real aggressive and see how I do in the next little while.”

Lombardi was hurt while taking a faceoff in the second period of the Leafs’ 4-1 loss in Nashville. It was just his 19th game since missing the entire previous season with a concussion suffered while playing for the Predators.

EX-LEAF HOMECOMING

There were several former Leafs on the Carolina Hurricanes roster on Tuesday — Jiri Tlusty, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tim Brent and Jay Harrison — and there would have been one more had long-time Toronto defenceman Tomas Kaberle not been traded to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.

Leafs blueliner Luke Schenn said he still keeps in touch with Kaberle and that he had texted the Czech to wish him well in his new home.

“He really helped me out (when I first came into the league),” Schenn said of Kaberle.

Kaberle was traded to Boston at the end of last season and then acquired by the Hurricanes for this season. But things never panned out in Carolina for the veteran NHLer, who was a minus-12, and he was traded to the Canadiens.


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