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Maple Leafs' Phaneuf expects to play Thursday

NHL.com @NHL

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf will be ready to play Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Maple Leafs said Wednesday.

"I feel good. I'm as ready as I'm going to be," Phaneuf said in a video posted on the Maple Leafs website. "I feel that I'm at a point where I'm comfortable and strong enough to come back, and I'm just looking forward to getting back out and playing games."

He last played Jan. 21 because of a hand injury. The injury was believed to have occurred during a game that day against the Ottawa Senators. The Maple Leafs went 2-8-2 in the 12 games he's missed.

"It's been a little bit of a longer process than I originally thought," Phaneuf said. "With being off for the amount of time that I was, I have that excitement to get back into real game action."

Phaneuf is tied for the lead among Maple Leafs defensemen currently on the roster with 22 points, and his average ice time of 23:05 per game leads the Maple Leafs.

Interim coach Peter Horachek said Phaneuf's minutes will be monitored as he makes his return, but that the captain's presence will be welcomed.

"Based on where he is, it looks like he's good," Horachek said. "There's enthusiasm; our practices get a little more energetic, the room gets a little more energetic. It's a real positive having him back, and that leadership being back in the room. It's kind of a boost all the way around."

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