Pha­neuf brings pos­i­tive en­ergy

Player known for an­tag­o­niz­ing style has be­come a pos­i­tive force on the team.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Zupke cur­tis.zupke@la­times.com Twit­ter: @cur­tiszupke

In first full sea­son with Kings, vet­eran is help­ing team­mates col­lect mem­o­ra­bilia and points.

OT­TAWA — It worked out that Dion Pha­neuf had the puck when the horn sounded. He bent down and picked it up for team­mate Jack Camp­bell.

It was a sim­ple ges­ture to pre­serve the sou­venir for Camp­bell’s first shutout Thurs­day and one that Pha­neuf ap­pre­ci­ates as much at 33 as he did when he was on the re­ceiv­ing end of such mo­ments.

“I en­joy that part of it be­cause it’s a spe­cial thing for guys,” Pha­neuf said. “It just hap­pened that I was by the puck. There’s 20 other guys in there that would have picked up the puck for him too. He’s a re­ally well-re­spected guy in our room.”

There was sym­bol­ism in the ges­ture be­cause Pha­neuf keeps a heavy pres­ence in the dress­ing room in his first full sea­son with the Kings. He hasn’t made the sta­tis­ti­cal sheet yet but his lead­er­ship is mea­sured in the spaces where they’ve needed a nudge.

“He’s a su­per vo­cal guy and he brings the mood up ev­ery sin­gle day and he just brings the pos­i­tive en­ergy ev­ery day,” Tyler Tof­foli said. “He’s done a lot for our team so far this sea­son. … We’re only four games in but there’s been some times where we’ve needed some ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion and he’s been there.”

That’s one of the rea­sons that Pha­neuf was re­mem­bered well in Ot­tawa, where he will re­turn Satur­day for the first time since he and Nate Thomp­son were traded to the Kings for Mar­ian Ga­borik and Nick Shore in Fe­bru­ary. The re­turns tilt to­ward the Kings with the news last month that Ga­borik is see­ing a spe­cial­ist in Los An­ge­les for post-surgery back prob­lems that re­port­edly throw his ca­reer in doubt. He has three years re­main­ing on his con­tract that pays $4.87 mil­lion per sea­son.

Pha­neuf also is signed through 2020-21 at $5.25 mil­lion an­nu­ally, but he plays a safe, hard, an­tag­o­niz­ing game and oc­ca­sion­ally scores. He’s al­ready had dus­tups with the Detroit Red Wings’ Tyler Ber­tuzzi and was his usual an­noy­ing self against Mon­treal.

“He brings that at­ti­tude that I think we’ve missed a lit­tle bit,” Kings gen­eral man­ager Rob Blake said. “He knows the right guys to go af­ter, [at] the right times. … He’s a big part of that core group.”

The sec­ond half of this four-game trip is the Pha­neuf Re­u­nion Tour be­cause the Kings play an­other of his for­mer teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, on Mon­day. Pha­neuf on Fri­day was sen­ti­men­tal about the high point of his 154 games with Ot­tawa. He was on the 2016-17 team that lost to the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins in Game 7 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals.

“There’s a con­nec­tion, for sure, with guys,” Pha­neuf said. “To be that close to mak­ing it to the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal … it was tough say­ing good­bye. I made some friend­ships here.”

Pha­neuf spoke af­ter a light day for the Kings, who spent time kick­ing foot­balls and soc­cer balls at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa. Satur­day will be his 986th NHL game as he creeps to­ward the 1,000 mile­stone.

“Re­ally what it says is that I think that you’re closer to the end than the be­gin­ning,” Pha­neuf said. “For me, I feel like I’ve got lots left. I want to con­tinue to play as long as I can.”

And maybe pick up a few more pucks along the way.

TO­DAY

AT OT­TAWA When: Satur­day, 11 a.m. PDT. On the air: TV: FS West; Ra­dio: iHeartRa­dio (L.A. Kings Au­dio Net­work). Up­date: Ot­tawa rookie Brady Tkachuk, the fourth pick in this year’s draft, has two goals in his first two games. He was the sec­ondy­oungest U.S.-born player to have a multi-goal game within his first two NHL games, be­hind Pat LaFon­taine in 1984.

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