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Phaneuf to play against Wings despite facial injury

Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf leaves the game after getting hit in the mouth by a shot during third period NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets in Toronto on Thursday January 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Frank Gunn/CP

Dion Phaneuf looks a bit more than slightly worse for wear, but he'll be in the lineup on Saturday as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings.

Phaneuf took a puck to the face near the end of Thursday's win over the Winnipeg Jets, but X-rays came back negative and despite sporting a grotesque lump on his face at the morning skate, he will in fact play.

The Leafs captain was testing out various new face shields on Saturday morning, but it would be a surprise if he can play with anything less than a full facemask given the damage.

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"It wasn't pretty," defenceman Luke Schenn said. "One side of his face looked pretty normal and the other side was ugly. He kind of looks like Two-Face from Batman, that's how bad it was.

"It just shows what type of character he has," Schenn added of Phaneuf's decision to play. "He wants to help battle and help this team win."

The good news was that Phaneuf didn't sustain any permanent damage, coach Ron Wilson said.

"Nothing got broke, he didn't lose any teeth," Wilson said. "Most hockey players I know would be back. And Dion's no different.

"He's easily our best defenceman, and when you're playing a team like Detroit, you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible."

Phaneuf remaining in the lineup, combined with the return of Mike Komisarek and Mike Brown from injury, mean Wilson will juggle his lineup a little for the game.

Expect rookie Jake Gardiner to sit out to make room for Komisarek, while Brown will slide into a spot on the fourth line that was vacated when Matt Frattin was sent to the minors on Friday afternoon.

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Cap crunch

What's worth noting about all of the bodies the Leafs have sent to the minors of late is that some of those decisions had at least a little bit to do with where Toronto is against the salary cap.

In the last week, Toronto has shipped Philippe Dupuis, Colton Orr and Matt Frattin to the AHL, three players who had spent the majority of the season in the NHL and make a combined $2.5-million (not including Frattin's entry-level bonuses).

According to capgeek.com, the Leafs have just $616,454 in cap space right now, a situation that had been getting very tight given all of the injuries and call-ups the past couple months. Keeping Orr up in the press box eating popcorn was technically still doable, but it could have made their cap situation far too uncomfortable later in the year.

Leafs GM Brian Burke is going to want some wiggle room to make a deal closer to the deadline and opening up that extra half a million or so helps in that regard.

Capgeek's Matthew Wuest said in an email that he estimates the Leafs can take on extra full-season salary of roughly $2.8-million at the trade deadline after their latest demotions, money that will surely come in handy.

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In other words, don't expect to see Orr back with the big club any time soon. And having a 22-man roster, instead of the limit of 23, may now be the norm.

Leafs projected lineup

Lupul - Connolly - Kessel Crabb - Grabovski - Kulemin MacArthur - Lombardi - Kadri Brown - Steckel - Boyce

Aulie - Phaneuf Gunnarsson - Schenn Franson - Komisarek

Gustavsson

Scratches: Gardiner, Rosehill Injured: Armstrong, Bozak, Liles

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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