TORONTO - It only took Dion Phaneuf a couple of minutes to decide a full facemask wasn’t for him, but it’s hard to imagine he won’t be wearing a cage when the Maple Leafs host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Phaneuf joined the Leafs for their morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday after having skipped practice Friday to rest his swollen face. The rugged Leafs captain was only on the ice a few minutes when he shed the full cage for his usual visor. But with half his face being swollen up like “Two-Face off Batman,” it’s hard to believe he won’t be wearing a cage come game time against the Red Wings.
Phaneuf took a puck to the left side of the face with less than four minutes to play against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. The defenceman was bleeding from the mouth as he was helped off the ice and there was some concern he wouldn’t play Saturday after missing practice Friday. But those fears have now been alleviated.
“It wasn’t pretty,” defenceman Luke Schenn said of Phaneuf’s injury. “It’s pretty crazy to see how the one side of his face looks normal but the other half of his face S It’s almost like (the character) Two-Face off Batman.”
Schenn said it would probably take Phaneuf some time to get used to wearing a cage, if that is what he opts to do against the Wings.
“The last time he probably wore a cage was playing midget or something like, so it will probably take a bit of time to get used to,” Schenn said. “Guys with the visors who haven’t worn one previously have a tough time wearing the visors, never mind the full cage so it will be a bit of an adjustment for him but I think once you get into the flow of the game you won’t even think about it.”
Schenn added that Phaneuf’s willingness to get right back out there speaks to the captain’s toughness.
“It just shows what type of character he has,” Schenn said. “He wants to help battle and help this team win.”
But coach Ron Wilson said he wasn’t surprised that with the Leafs fighting for a playoff spot Phaneuf will be in the lineup.
“Nothing got broke, he didn’t lose any teeth,” Wilson said. “Most hockey players I know would be back and Dion is no different. We need Dion in the
lineup, he’s easily our best defenceman and when you play a team like Detroit you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible.”
While Phaneuf will be playing tonight, one guy you might not see is rookie Jake Gardiner. To make room on the blue line for the returning Mike Komisarek,
Wilson suggested Gardiner could be the odd man out.
“He could be, yeah,” Wilson said when asked if Gardiner would be a healthy scratch.
Komisarek has been out of the lineup since suffering a broken arm on Nov. 17 against Nashville and says he can’t wait to get back on the ice.
“You’re always eager and itching to get back with your teammates and start working with them,” Komisarek said. “I finally got the clearance from the coach and doctors and I’m excited to get back out there.”
Komisarek will be joined in the lineup by a returning Mike Brown, who missed 21 games with a herniated disc. Brown will start on the fourth line with David Steckel and Darryl Boyce. Matt Frattin was sent down to the Marlies on Friday to make room for Brown.
Jonas Gustavsson will get the start in net for the Leafs.