OTTAWA — Dion Phaneuf has no clue what awaits him at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
The former Maple Leafs captain will play in Toronto for the first time since he was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9 in a blockbuster nine-player deal.
“I’m not sure, I’ll give you the honest answer,” Phaneuf said, on how Leafs fans might react. “You asked me that question and I’m not sure. We’ll see (Saturday) night how I’m received, but my focus is here and how we’ve got to get our game back to the level we’re capable of.”
Phaneuf played over 400 games for Toronto, was captain for six years, and was involved in numerous charitable organizations. But his new teammates aren’t convinced Toronto’s fans will offer a warm homecoming.
“I’m sure there will be a few energy bursts from the fans when he’s got the puck,” said Craig Anderson. “I think he’ll smile and enjoy the moment. It’s definitely a cool feeling when people are against you. It gives you a reason to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Phaneuf’s addition has brought a veteran presence and added depth to Ottawa’s blue-line and Zack Smith admits it’s kind of nice knowing the Senators won’t have to battle with him anymore when playing Toronto.
“I’m sure it will be a little strange for him, being the first time back in the building since he was traded,” Smith said. “He’s a huge addition for our team, a big presence back there. I know from playing against him, you’re aware when he’s on the ice because he likes to step up. He’s a big physical guy, so that should help us and any time you’ve got forwards thinking about who is on ice, it’s definitely going to help you.”
With the Senators still desperately fighting to get into the playoffs, Phaneuf says his focus is on his current team.
As of Friday, the Senators sat seven points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the wild card in the east.
“We didn’t play well enough (Thursday) night (a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay), and the bottom line is that I’m part of this organization here now and I said it before when I first got traded to Ottawa that I’m an Ottawa Senator, I’m proud to be an Ottawa Senator and I’m excited about being part of this group,” Phaneuf said. “That doesn’t discredit where I was before, but my focus is here now.
“I think I got treated very well there. The bottom line is the organization treated me well, the fan base treated me well and I have nothing but good things to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. With saying that I’m an Ottawa Senator now and the bottom line is that I’m playing for this team, I’m part of this team and now we move forward.”
Dave Cameron didn’t name his starting goaltender, but expect Andrew Hammond to get the start seeing as Craig Anderson remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Anderson took to the ice for about 15 minutes, but didn’t face a shot and doesn’t anticipate playing this weekend.
“I was out there today and tried to push it as far as I could,” Anderson said. “I’m able to get into the butterfly position, but I’m not at the point where I can explosively get in there yet.”
Anderson was hurt on a seemingly harmless play Tuesday night midway through the second period.
“I just kind of got in the deep butterfly and something kind of caught. It kind of flared it up a little bit. It’s just one of those things where you just don’t know if and when it ever happened,” he said. “Right now it’s a thousand times better than it was the last time it happened so that’s the good news.”
NOTES: Mark Borowiecki was seen wearing a brace on his right leg and remains out indefinitely. The Senators are expected to recall a defenceman from Binghamton.