All eyes on Phaneuf

The Globe and Mail

EDMONTON -- Even the Edmonton Oilers are Dion Phaneuf watchers, but for an entirely different reason.

While fans and media are glued to Phaneuf's return to Alberta (first, to his hometown of Edmonton then to Calgary where he played for the Flames), the Oilers have a far more rooted interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs' captain.

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On Dec. 2, the Oilers played in Toronto and shellacked the Leafs 5-0. Phaneuf wasn't in the lineup because of a leg gash he suffered the month before against Ottawa. Tuesday night at Rexall Place, the two teams meet again and this team Phaneuf will be on defence.

The Oilers have taken notice of that.

"We expect a good Toronto team. They have their leader back in there," said winger Jordan Eberle. "We have to pick up our game a bit. We struggled in our last game (a 201 Sunday loss to the Vancouver Canucks)."

Edmonton coach Tom Renney offered the same opinion.

"That's their captain for a reason … Dion has no problem with the physical part of the game and Toronto works hard," Renney said. "You have to make sure you get pucks behind him and make him go get them."

Given the fact the Oilers were physically dominated by Vancouver - and given that they're also expecting a more engaged response from Toronto - Renney added some muscle for the Leafs. Inserted into the lineup are Steve MacIntyre and Zack Stortini, both of whom were scratched Sunday.

"Steve brings a couple of things," said Renney. "The guys feel a sense of security with him and he's physical."

Beyond that, Renney added: "It really is important (for Edmonton to get back on the winning side of the ledger). You have to play better, first. We have to stop this now. Usually what happens is bad habits creep in."

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