To watch Dion Phaneuf throughout the course of a game is to see why he is a former captain.
He talks constantly, on the ice and on the bench. Inside the Kings’ dressing room, he always has encouraging words. Phaneuf is the first to admit that his vocal style differs from the quieter, lead-by-example style inside most NHL rooms.
“It’s part of my personality,” Phaneuf said. “It’s part of the way that I play. I like to talk on the ice. I think it’s an important part of the game. Communication helps out, whether it’s breaking the puck out, or being the eyes for someone else going to get the puck, you’re always in position to talk. For me, it’s something that I’ve taken pride in, over my career, is being a guy that’s vocal. I just think it helps out in a lot of different ways on the ice.”
It usually takes time for a team to know a new player, but the Kings have noticed that brash side of Phaneuf right away since he arrived from the Ottawa Senators. Formerly the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phaneuf provides a similar type of leadership even though he doesn’t wear a letter.
“The best way I can describe it [is that he’s] a guy that’s emotionally invested in the game,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “He loves the game. Things happen out there. It doesn’t go by without him noticing if it’s a big hit, a good play. He talks on the ice. He talks on the bench. He just has a real passion for the game.”
It helps that Phaneuf has had instant chemistry with defense partner Alec Martinez. Both are left-handed, but the combination of Phaneuf’s shot and Martinez’s vision have given the Kings a formidable pairing. Phaneuf had three goals in his first four games with the Kings and made the pass to Anze Kopitar for the tying goal Monday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“He’s been awesome ever since he got there,” Martinez said. “Especially as a partner, I think there’s a bit of a stage where you’re trying to figure each other out. … You’re kind of thrown into it a bit more midseason. And one of the things that helps that process go a lot smoother is communication.
“That’s one of the many things that he’s really good at it. I noticed right away. He’s a great guy. We have good banter going back and forth, but we also have good conversations as to how we want to play as a pair and things that we want to do.”
Phaneuf’s shot-first mentality also changes the Kings’ dynamic, especially for players who make a living in front of the net such as Dustin Brown. Phaneuf put a game-high six shots on goal Tuesday against Vegas, and has 22 shots in eight games with the Kings.
Off the ice, Phaneuf, 32, is just beginning his transition to Southern California. It has been a hectic few months for the veteran, who has a 2-month-old daughter with his wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert. Phaneuf said he won’t uproot his family yet. He has loved the way his new hockey family has welcomed him.
“It’s a credit to the group they have here,” Phaneuf said. “They’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of experience. They’ve got a lot of guys with great leadership qualities, and I’ve just been so impressed with the way the group goes about its business.”
When: Thursday 7:30 p.m.
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Update: Columbus picked up forwards Mark Letestu and Thomas Vanek before the trade deadline, and Vanek is expected to make his Blue Jackets debut. The Kings beat the Blue Jackets 6-4 on Oct.21 in a matchup of goalies Jonathan Quick and Sergei Bobrovsky.