New look Maple Leafs

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY CHRIS JOHNSTON

Pha­neuf al­ready chang­ing things

ten­der J.S. Giguere and winger Fredrik Sjostrom — but the dress­ing room stalls for­mally oc­cu­pied by the six de­parted guys all sat empty.

The mas­sive over­haul caught every­one by sur­prise.

“I’ve seen a lot of things hap­pen in my ca­reer, but I’ve never seen that,” said vet­eran for­ward Wayne Primeau. “ That’s a lot of guys. I talked to Ja­son Blake and he said it was a weird feel­ing when he came in the dress­ing room yes­ter­day. He said it kind of felt like the end of the sea­son where there was six bags in the mid­dle of the dress­ing room. “ You don’t see that too of­ten.” Primeau spent parts of three sea­sons play­ing along­side Pha­neuf in Cal­gary and clearly has some rap­port with the 24year-old de­fence­man.

The pair chat­ted dur­ing breaks in prac­tice on Mon­day and play­fully jos­tled with one an­other from time to time.

“He’s a vo­cal kid, very con­fi­dent,” said Primeau.

The new-look Leafs will all be on dis­play with New Jer­sey in town on to­day (TSN, 7 p.m. ET).

Giguere is pegged to get the start in goal and will be wear­ing the No. 35 that for­mally be­longed to Vesa Toskala, one of the play­ers sent to Ana­heim in ex­change for him. Pha­neuf will be wear­ing his fa­mil­iar No. 3 — Gar­net Ex­elby gave it up and switched to No. 7 — while Sjostrom will have on No. 11.

The team is ex­pected to call up an­other for­ward from the Amer­i­can Hockey League.

Wil­son fully ex­pects all the new­com­ers to be jacked up for their Maple Leaf de­buts. In the case of Pha­neuf, the coach pre­dicted that he’ll try to throw some big hits and bring an “in­tim­i­da­tion fac­tor” the team has been miss­ing.

“I would think that New Jer­sey com­ing in to­mor­row, the first thing they’re go­ing to say (is): ‘Geez guys, any­body with their head down, you bet­ter get it up be­cause you’re go­ing to get lev­elled,”’ said Wil­son. “ We haven’t had that real open ice hit­ting threat. I’m sure most of the teams in the West­ern Con­fer­ence are go­ing: ‘ Wow, thank God he’s not here any­more.’

“Ev­ery night, Dion lays one or two or three guys out. He plays very ag­gres­sive.”

The ar­rival of the new play­ers gen­er­ated plenty of buzz in a city that seemed to be los­ing some in­ter­est in the Maple Leafs. The 29th-place team quickly found it­self back on the radar, with as many me­dia mem­bers at prac­tice as there had been in months.

Pha­neuf, once a fi­nal­ist for the Nor­ris Tro­phy, is likely to be the most-closely scru­ti­nized. A cor­ner­stone of the Flames fran­chise just a cou­ple sea­sons ago, he ex­pe­ri­enced some strug­gles in re­cent years and fell out of favour with many in Cal­gary.

On his first day in Toronto, he was in no mood to look back on what went wrong with his for­mer team.

“ That’s in the past, to be hon­est with you,” said Pha­neuf. “I’ve moved for­ward pretty quickly. I’m a Toronto Maple Leaf and I’m looking for­ward to get­ting it started to­mor­row.

“It’s been a very ex­cit­ing day and a half.”

The over­all ex­cite­ment could be seen on the ice dur­ing prac­tice.

Most of the play­ers were out skat­ing a good 10 or 15 min­utes be­fore the ses­sion was sched­uled to be­gin and many of them stuck around long af­ter it of­fi­cially ended. The changes brought some life to a team that is win­less in six games and had a 3-10-2 record in Jan­uary.

“ When new guys come to the team, they al­ways bring new en­ergy,” said goal­tender Jonas Gus­tavs­son. “I think we got that to­day ... I felt like it was a new at­mos­phere out there. It was more happy and more pos­i­tive.

“Ev­ery­body just had fun out there and tried to work hard.”

Giguere had to waive a no­trade clause to fa­cil­i­tate his deal and is looking for­ward to the chance to play in a more tra­di­tional hockey mar­ket than Ana­heim.

His first im­pres­sions of life as a Maple Leaf were pos­i­tive.

“ You can tell it’s a young team,” said Giguere. “I re­ally liked what I saw this morn­ing on the ice. I thought guys had a lot of jump (and) were pretty up­beat.

“ To be hon­est, I don’t know much else about the Leafs.”

Pha­neuf had a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment.

“All I know from right now is that there’s a great fa­cil­ity here and a re­ally good bunch of guys,” said Pha­neuf. “(They were) all very pleas­ant, very out­go­ing. I’ve never done this be­fore, never been a part of a trade (and) ev­ery guy was very wel­com­ing.

“I’m looking for­ward to fit­ting in here.”

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