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Senators' Phaneuf back in Toronto to face Maple Leafs

Babcock hopes former captain welcomed with open arms

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com Correspondent

SENATORS (30-28-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (21-32-10)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV

TORONTO - Defenseman Dion Phaneuf will face the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time since his trade to the Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

Phaneuf was jokingly booed by his teammates a few times during the morning skate and said that helped break the tension.

"I really enjoyed it," Phaneuf said. "I have been embraced by these guys right from the moment I joined the team. I was a little nervous coming into the dressing room because I had a lot of heated battles with many of these players. The Battle of Ontario is a bitter rivalry. But once I joined this team I was all in and very proud to be a Senator."

Maple Leafs forward Peter Holland hopes fans will give Phaneuf a huge ovation. 

"I think he deserves a welcome back, a congratulations on the time he spent here," Holland said. "I hope the fans react accordingly."

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock spoke glowingly of Phaneuf and also believes his former captain should be welcomed with open arms by the fans.

"It should be outstanding because in my opinion he was a good man who played hard and trained right," Babcock said. "Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner love him. Why would they love him? They love him because he looked after them and took the heat off of them. Rielly and Gardiner never got much heat; Dion got the heat. He was a good teammate who tried hard for the organization."

Holland believes Phaneuf was misunderstood by fans and the media during his days in Toronto.

"I think he just got a bad rap over the years here," Holland said. "A lot of the fans used to get on him and the media used to get on him a lot, but I think he was misunderstood in the sense that we looked up to him. He was a big leader for us, a big part of this dressing room and he is definitely missed."

Phaneuf, 30, played seven years in Toronto, scoring 45 goals and 196 points with a minus-30 rating in 423 games. He was acquired by the Senators with Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert for Colin Greening, Jared Cowen and Milan Michalek on Feb. 9. Thus far, only Greening has played for the Maple Leafs. Michalek continues to nurse an upper-body injury and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Cowen will not play for Toronto and will have his contract bought out in the summer.

In 11 games with Ottawa, Phaneuf has a goal and seven points and is minus-2.

The Senators are 5-5-1 and the Maple Leafs 2-9-1 since the trade.

Here are the projected lineups: 

SENATORS

Mike Hoffman - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Zack Smith - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Mark Stone

Ryan Dzingel - Scott Gomez - Alex Chiasson

Nick Paul - Curtis Lazar - Chris Neil
 
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci  

Patrick Wiercioch - Chris Wideman
 
Andrew Hammond

Chris Driedger

Injured: Kyle Turris (ankle), Craig Anderson (lower body), Chris Phillips (back), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Mark Borowiecki (knee)

Scratched: Matt Puempel

MAPLE LEAFS

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov

Michael Grabner - William Nylander - Zach Hyman

Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Brooks Laich

Kasperi Kapanen - Peter Holland - Brendan Leipsic

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado

Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Garret Sparks

Jonathan Bernier

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (middle body), James van Riemsdyk (foot fracture), Jared Cowen (hip tightness), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Milan Michalek (upper body), Brad Boyes (upper body), Byron Froese (broken hand), PA Parenteau (broken hand)

Scratched: None

Status report: Anderson briefly participated in Ottawa's optional practice Friday, but will not dress…Wiercioch will play for Borowiecki.

Who's hot: Greening has a goal and an assist in his past two games. … Kadri has a goal and seven points in seven games. … Smith has points in three straight games, and four goals and seven points in seven games. … Pageau has three goals in three games and eight points in seven games.

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