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Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf grimaces after being injured on a play against the Ottawa Senators during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, November 2, 2010. (MARK BLINCH)
Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf grimaces after being injured on a play against the Ottawa Senators during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, November 2, 2010. (MARK BLINCH)

Leafs limp to D.C. minus their captain Add to ...

With his team down 1-0 to the Ottawa Senators and a potential second goal against under review, Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was wheeled out of the Air Canada Centre on a stretcher and taken to the hospital after suffering a serious cut to his leg in a collision with Sens forward Peter Regin.

In many ways, it was that kind of night for Toronto, one where what could go wrong did in what turned into a wild 3-2 loss.

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"The opportunities we had in the second period, I mean it's just so frustrating," winger Clarke MacArthur said in the dressing room after the game. "We could have had three or four there. Just on that delayed penalty alone, I mean we hit two posts, we had empty nets, I mean it's just, it's one of those things.

"You know? Enough's enough. We just got to bear down, be good around the net."

Phaneuf's status was somewhat unclear in the half hour after the game as the team rushed to get their equipment and players on a late-night flight bound for Washington. After what was likely their most difficult loss of the season, Toronto has to face the high-powered Capitals on Wednesday night.

It will be a stiff test for a team that is 1-5-1 in its last seven games, scoring only nine goals in that span, and that will almost certainly be missing its leading minute-getter in Phaneuf.

Seventh defenceman Brett Lebda will replace Phaneuf if he is unable to play.

"He's got a cut on his leg," coach Ron Wilson said in assessing Phaneuf's injury. "It was deep enough that they wanted to take him to the hospital to determine the extent of the injury. That's the last I heard."

"I'm not going to speculate [on when he'll be available to play] He probably won't be available tomorrow."

How exactly Phaneuf got hurt, meanwhile, wasn't exactly clear, with Regin saying he wasn't even sure how the injury happened.

"I didn't mean to hurt him," Regin said. "I don't even know if I did hurt him. I hope he'll be fine."

Phaneuf's teammates said they were going to rally around the fact they are missing their captain and out scored Ottawa 2-0 in the third period, breaking a goalless drought that had lasted 167 minutes - more than eight periods of play - dating back to a 3-1 win over Florida last week.

"He's been the heart and soul here so far," said MacArthur, Phaneuf's closest friend on the team. "That's just, he goes down, we've got [Brett]Lebda, he's got a Stanley Cup ring, he's ready to go. I mean it's a tough loss obviously, but it's time for guys to pick up the slack. It's an opportunity for Lebs to get in there and I'm sure he'll be excited. We've just got to roll with it, I mean you're going to get injuries during the year. It's a physical game. We've got to battle through it."

"You can't replace a guy like that with one guy," netminder J-S Giguere said.

MacArthur added that the game's second period, when the Leafs missed several excellent chances and Ottawa added two power play goals, was difficult to take given how much Toronto has struggled to put the puck in the net of late.

"It feels like, when it rains, it pours, you know?" he said. "I think once we went to the meat and potatoes style of hockey, I mean, as soon as we started banging and getting pucks out of the corners, we were all over them in the third period. It's just frustrating that we can't do that a little earlier."

Giguere said the team would be ready for Washington, despite the fact the game will be played in another city less than 24 hours after the loss to the Sens.

"They have some weaknesses just like anybody else and we have to exploit those," he said. "We can skate with any team in this league. If we skate, we play well defensively, put the puck deep, go after their D, we'll give ourselves a chance."

 

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