The Maple Leafs will be without the services of their captain on a week-to-week basis according to interim coach Peter Horachek.
The timing of Phaneuf’s injury is far from ideal. The team is in the midst of a season-high six-game losing streak.
It’s the latest setback to a team that is already without the services of Joffrey Lupul who has been held out with a lower body injury while Peter Holland, Stephane Robidas and Leo Komarov have all missed time with upper body injuries.
At least there is good news on the horizon for many of those players.
“Leo has been out a little bit more so I kind of expect Leo to play Wednesday,” said Horachek. “Those other guys I’m hoping for Wednesday.”
However, Robidas isn’t anywhere near a return as he skates on his own as he recovers from injury.
Phaneuf has two goals and 20 assists through 48 games this season, but it’s the minutes he logs where the Leafs will miss his presence. His average ice time of 23:05 per game leads the team.
“We’ll definitely miss our captain,” Nazem Kadri said. “He also logs a lot of minutes against their top guys so that’s definitely a big hole to fill.”
“If you miss guys like that, it’s up to guys in the room to pull together as group and make everybody very accountable and come out with solid team games in order to give ourselves chances to win,” added defenceman Cody Franson.
Petter Granberg has been called up as a result of Phaneuf’s absence.
Granberg has collected seven points (one goal, six assists) in 28 games with the Marlies this season. He has previously appeared in one game for the Maple Leafs, making his NHL debut on April 12, 2014.
The Leafs prospect is no stranger to injury himself, having missed four to five weeks with a foot injury while playing with the Marlies this season.
In Granberg, the Leafs get a defenceman whose work ethic will be a welcomed addition to the room. During the course of his injury, Granberg insisted on showing up every day in the weight room, even when told by staff to take a break when needed.
But stopping the Leafs current slide without Phaneuf will be tricky.
In the 18 games Phaneuf has missed since joining the Leafs in January of 2010, the team is 5-10-3 (.361). That’s in comparison to the 169-157-33 (.517) record when Phaneuf has suited up.
With the injury comes an opportunity for others to step up.
“When adversity hits, it hits,” Horachek said. “You just deal with it.”
Back from Break
Many Leafs felt the All-Star Break came at the right time, especially with their recent struggles. The players were happy to reset, and were mandated to shut off from a physical and mental standpoint.
“I think that break really definitely helped us to stay away from the rink and clear your mind. I think guys were feeling that little bit of pressure,” said goaltender Jonathan Bernier. “I think it’s good to get away and relax and not focus on hockey. Reset the button I guess.”