They'll try again to end that skid Friday night at the New Jersey Devils without their captain, who will miss his fifth straight game with a hand injury.
"It's extremely disappointing to not be able to contribute," Phaneuf said after practice Thursday. "As a player you want to play games, and to be watching on the outside, it's disappointing for me because I want to be there to try and help our team pull out of it."
Phaneuf took part in his first practice with teammates since injuring his right hand in a fight with Ottawa's Milan Michalek on Jan. 21 but knew going in that he wasn't going to be ready for the Devils. He was not paired up with another defenceman and was not on a power-play unit.
"If it was feeling right, I'd be playing," Phaneuf said, without adding what was specifically wrong. "I'm not there yet,"
Phaneuf did not travel with the team to Newark, N.J., for the second game at Prudential Center in less than two weeks. The Leafs picked up their only point during this 0-9-1 run in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils Jan. 28.
Coach Peter Horachek said the Leafs were hopeful that Phaneuf may be able to play Saturday night at home against the Edmonton Oilers.
"It progresses on its own. It's hard to tell," Horachek said. "There's no exact science to when and how quickly. It's a tough situation for him and where it is, he has to put a lot of pressure on that. We just have to wait to see when he's ready."
Without Phaneuf, the Leafs are expected to go with the same blue-line from Tuesday's loss at the Nashville Predators. They sent rookie Petter Granberg back to the AHL on Wednesday.
Horachek sees Phaneuf's absence as more adversity for a group that is 3-17-1 in its past 21 games.
"It's hard to have leadership group people out of your lineup and especially somebody that's important. We have to deal with that," Horachek said. "You need as much leadership as you can and veteran players in your lineup to help push through that. But right now he's not there, so other people have to pick up the slack and continue to get better."
Note — Defencemen Roman Polak and Cody Franson were late to practice because they got a flat tire on the Gardiner Expressway. Horachek said they would be fined even though there was nothing more the players could have done.
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