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Phaneuf faces Maple Leafs for first time since trade

Former captain returns to Toronto with Senators

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com Correspondent

#HockeyNight: Phaneuf's back

GamePlus | #HockeyNight: Phaneuf's back in town

Phaneuf returns to Toronto Saturday Night for the first time as an Ottawa Senator, how will the home crowd react to the former Leaf's Captain?

  • 01:04 •

TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf went to dinner with some of his former teammates Friday, and said it was an opportunity to add a little closure to his time in Toronto.

The former Maple Leafs captain was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9 and will play at Air Canada Centre for the first time with his new team Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV).

"When I got traded, I didn't get an opportunity to go to the rink," Phaneuf said. "I had to go straight to Detroit and meet the [Senators], so I didn't get a chance to see a lot of the guys. It was nice to say goodbye to them. I have some real good friends over there and I have nothing but good things to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have a lot of respect for the organization. I have been treated very well over my time when I was here. Now I am an Ottawa Senator and I am very proud to be one. I'm enjoying it. I am really happy."

This is not the first time Phaneuf has been traded and has had to face a former team. Selected in the first round (No. 9) of the 2003 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf was traded to Toronto on Jan. 31, 2010.

"Actually it is completely different, because I went to my grandmother's funeral the night before I played in Calgary," Phaneuf said. "Then flying across the country from Prince Edward Island to Calgary was a lot different than this. I have gone through this before as a player - playing my former team. Trades are a part of the game."

Phaneuf said the players on the Senators went out of their way to welcome him to the team.

"I am really comfortable and I owe a lot to the guys with the way they welcomed me right from day one," Phaneuf said. "I have had a lot of battles with the guys in this room over the years. They made my transition really easy and I feel comfortable being a part of this organization."

Phaneuf said he felt a little strange to be meeting with the media in the visitors' dressing room at Air Canada Centre.

"I was a visitor in this building before, but this is the first time back since I played with the team over there," he said. "There are obviously mixed emotions when you come in and you're on this side. I have been over there for a lot of games. I'm going to enjoy tonight. They are great games to be a part of. It's the Battle of Ontario on a Saturday night. I'm really happy where I am at and being with this team. I'm excited about playing tonight."

The Maple Leafs have indicated they will present a video tribute to Phaneuf during a stoppage in play during the game.

"You might not think I have emotion, but I'm an emotional guy," Phaneuf said. "I played hard for this organization. I took pride in playing hard night after night. I've got a lot of respect for the organization and for them to do that is a very classy move on their part. I'm very appreciative of it."

Phaneuf's picture will be put up on the wall in the weight room at Toronto's training facility at MasterCard Centre, joining the rest of the organization's former captains.

"I said it when I was named captain and I'll say it for the rest of my life; it was an honor to be the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs," he said. "But that chapter is over and now I'm a part of this organization and part of this team. I have a lot of fond memories of playing in Toronto and of being a part of that organization, but that's in the past now and I have to move forward.

"I'm not going to stand here and lie and say it's just another game. I played here a long time. It's a business and this is a part of it. When I am wearing this crest, I am all in. They're going to play me hard and I'm going to play them hard. The main thing is these are big points for our team. We've got to find a way to win a hockey game."

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